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Are Paper Textbooks on Their Way Out?

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It seems that in this day and age, everything we see on a daily basis has a digital option. As higher education professionals have seen in the past few years, textbooks are moving toward digital platforms.

Capabilities and Benefits of Digital Textbooks
As college students are weighing the pros and cons on purchasing digital text books versus traditional ones, one benefit seems to be on the forefront: cost. Digital textbooks are almost always cheaper than their paper counterparts, and generally by a significant amount. As college students are generally on the less affluent side of the population, they are very price sensitive and gravitating towards cheaper options. Another benefit of digital textbooks is that they are usually more than just a textbook. They often come with pre-made flashcards, quizzes, study games, and other applications that help students grasp the concepts in the text in a less daunting way. Lastly, students are choosing digital textbooks so that all of their information can be stored on one central hub, whether it be their computers or tablets. By having access to all of their textbooks, notes, applications for homework, and the Internet all on their laptop, students have less heavy items to carry around campus. They also have fewer things to remember to bring when they are hitting the library to study. Students find this much more convenient.

Why Digital Textbooks May Not Take Over
Although there are a variety of benefits that come from using digital textbooks, there are several reasons that students are choosing not to make use of them. The first is simply personal preference. Some students just prefer to have a tangible textbook in front of them with a highlighter in hand. A lot of students also report having a difficult time reading for long periods of time on a computer screen, and find reading from a paper text book easier and less harsh on their eyes. Another reason some students are deciding not to opt for the digital version of their textbooks is because many students like to keep their textbooks after their classes are over. A lot of times when students purchase digital textbooks, they are really renting the online materials for a semester long or year long span of time, making it more like a password to content that is only valid for a period of time. This will not allow them to refer back to their old texts in the future, if they wanted to do so. Lastly, some students do not like to have to rely on battery power to read their textbooks. With a traditional textbook, students are able to bring it anywhere with them and have no restrictions to when or how long they can use it. By choosing to use digital textbooks, they must make sure their devices are charged at all times. Also, if they are accessing their digital textbook on the Internet, they can only read in places where they have Internet access.

It is safe to conclude that, while digital textbooks are increasing in popularity, it is unlikely that traditional paper textbooks will be completely on their way out anytime soon. You will continue to see college students dog-earing their pages and breaking out their highlighters.

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