From paper to e-books: College textbooks bring flexibility to learning — What’s your preference?


Books (Photo credit: henry…)

College textbooks have evolved from static paper books to digital e-books that include interactive features. Whether you choose to use print or to go digital, there are plenty of benefits to be had.

Cool features of e-books and single e-chapters

  1. Study either online or offline: Most e-books for college can be downloaded to your computer for viewing offline.
  2. Take notes, copy/paste and highlight text: Instead of scribbling notes in the book margins, use the handy notes feature to type and save your notes. Use the copy/paste feature to ensure that your quotes are accurate when inserting them into your research papers. Just as useful with less mess is the ability to highlight in different colors.
  3. Search with keywords: While reading if you want to learn more about a term or concept you can use built-in features to search for definitions and more information. Feel free to zoom in on images that you want to examine in detail.
  4. Read on your favorite device: a recent study of 700 college students revealed that 87% of participants don’t leave home without their cell phone and 53% read magazines on their mobile devices. If you’re used to using a mobile device for reading and shopping, it’s a short leap to using it to read and study for your courses.
  5. Print pages: If you need to have a paper copy of an important table or image, it can be printed for your convenience.
  6. Navigate using the table of contents: Find what you need fast by clicking through the levels of your table of contents.
  7. Share notes: Services such as CafeScribe present a text in the Adobe eBook format allowing it to be viewed on both MAC and PC platforms. Along with note-taking and highlighting, CafeScribe also offers a social networking platform that allows students to share information.
  8. Enlarge the font for easy reading: During a late night study session you’ll appreciate the ability to enlarge the font and make reading easier on the eyes.
  9. Price discounts as high as 60%: Indiana University was the first school to require its students to purchase e-books. Because the sales were guaranteed, the school was able to negotiate lower prices and pass the savings on to its students. Since then, other schools have followed Indiana’s example.
  10. Convenience: Digital textbooks are easy to carry around. You can trade in your backpack and sore muscles for one simple portable device that holds all of your texts. And if you happen to lose or break your device, just download your books again on a new device.

Paper and print still have appeal

For those who prefer paper textbooks, it’s a feeling that can be hard to put into words. Josh Catone strove to describe the feeling in his January 16, 2013 post for titled, “Why Printed Books Will Never Die.”

According to Catone, “There’s something about holding a book in your hand and the visceral act of physically turning a page that, for me at least, can’t be matched with pixels on a screen.”

Catone may be right. You can curl up with a good book, but who wants to curl up with a computer? Print lovers extol the virtues of being able to hand-write personal notations on the page, and the thrill of color-coded highlights made by your own hand. Thanks to fingers and opposable thumbs, you can flip back-and-forth at will. Scan the table of contents, find your chapter, and look up a word in the glossary all within seconds.

While they can be bulky and heavy to carry around, there is still a definite appeal to paper textbooks. And if you love print but find the cost is too high check to see if your textbook publisher will rent you the book for the semester. Many companies such as Cengage offer printed textbooks for purchase or rental at prices that are very affordable for the cash-challenged student.

For a humorous perspective on the differences between e-books and print books, check out polandbananasBOOKS video “E-books vs. real books.”

How do you feel about paper texts and etextbook in your classes? Do you prefer one format over the other?

2 replies
  1. ofer says:

    Good review of pros and cons. One point to note is that Ebooks have no resell value, which is of great benefit to the publishers (which is why they can give some of these hefty discounts).


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