Digital versions preferable to school textbooks

April 20, 2009 — by Brandon Yang

For decades, students have been given massive textbooks, some to be carried back and forth between school and home, others left alone and forgot until June. Many of these books are old and damaged, the newer ones already deteriorating. It is time to think about replacing these with something more advanced and less destructible: digital textbooks.

Although these e-books are not common in high schools, colleges have begun to offer electronic versions of textbooks as an alternative to traditional materials. Numerous websites let students download these e-books instead of buying or borrowing heavy, expensive books at a local bookstore. More practical and efficient than printed versions, digital textbooks are beginning to make their mark in education.

E-books are much more interactive than their paper counterpart. When students attempt to find a specific fact with a traditional textbook, it often takes a long time with only the index and table of contents as aides. Electronic versions of textbooks, however, allow students to use a search function instead, which saves valuable time on homework assignments.

The copy and paste functions are also handy, allowing students to print and read only the section they require, instead of carrying hundreds of pages. In addition, students can take notes directly on the text, instead of sticking post-it notes or writing directly in the book. No longer hindered by the restrictions of paper, students are able to advance their education using the technology provided with electronic textbooks.

Online editions are not only cheaper but also save a lot of paper and ink that would be used to manufacture these textbooks. Because publishing companies do not need to print the books, students skip the cost of production, saving both money and the environment. Instead of thousands of pages in the form of a few textbooks, a laptop computer would be sufficient, removing the hassle of carrying and losing the books. Despite concerns for piracy of such electronic documents, generally only colleges deal with the problem, though many publishers are considering updating the textbooks more often to prevent piracy, as high school students borrow their books after the school purchases them.

Although students cannot expect SHS or other schools to replace all their textbooks with digital versions, they should begin to make the transition in technology. Every year, several books are lost or heavily damaged, requiring replacements; others become outdated, lacking the latest information. When schools next purchase a new set of books, they should consider making digital versions available as well.