Advantages & Disadvantages of Digital Textbooks

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While it is doubtful that traditional books will disappear completely, digital books have become increasingly popular. Some foresee a move to digital textbooks while others say that this will never happen. As with everything, there are valid advantages and disadvantages to making the digital switch.

Easy to Carry

Anyone who has ever lugged a backpack of heavy textbooks from one end of a campus to the other will be able to appreciate this advantage. Instead of several books weighing a few pounds each, every textbook that the student needs can be accessed on one lightweight device.

Total Cost

For college students on a budget, being able to cut the cost of textbooks is very tempting. But in some cases, the savings is only about 10 per cent of the cost of buying a traditional textbook. One must also consider that students can often buy the textbooks used, which often cost less than the digital versions. One must also consider the initial cost of the digital book-reader, which can be hundreds of dollars. One company, Marvell, is working on one that will cost just under £65, but the inability to cross formats will still be an issue.

Word Search Capabilities

Of all of the advantages, this may be the most compelling. Students using digital textbooks are able to search for keywords and phrases quite easily. This can make searching for specific information much easier than having to page through a thick text.

Cannot Highlight Notes

Many students follow along during a class lecture and highlight important passages as they see them. Also, while studying, some students use a highlighter to help make finding key passages easier on the next reading. This may seem like a small thing, especially since some book readers do have some sort of highlighting feature, but many students may be unwilling to give up the ability to highlight passages in the traditional way.

Multiple Formats

Because there is more than one format, and not every book will be available on every type of reader, it's possible that students will need to have more than one reader in order to access all of the required books. While some campuses have a program in place in which there is a guarantee that all textbooks will be available on their selected reader, there are often other readings required by professors that may not be compatible. If a student cannot get all of the reading material that they will need, they'll be less likely to pay for a digital reader.

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