By Nick Hofmeister
The world around us is digital. Digital music, movies, TV shows and newspapers are all available for consumption through the computer, so why do students still have to rent, buy, or borrow paper textbooks every semester?
E-textbooks are an emerging medium. Several books in print now are offered as a digital edition as well.
Transitioning to e-textbooks isn’t something that students can just do on their own. The new format requires support from faculty as well. “I like the idea a lot,” said Tom Jacobs, “you’re not carrying a whole bunch of stuff around, so to me, that’s a plus.” There are other advantages for students and teachers to use digital books. “They can copy and paste out of it, they can highlight in it,” said Jacobs.
Students at other colleges are already trying a digital-only method for reading their textbooks. “I like e-textbooks,” said Seth Mutchler, film composition sophomore at Indiana University. “The biggest advantage for me is how much less I have to carry. Last semester, I was carrying my laptop and four books around with me all day. Now I just drop my laptop in its case and I’m ready to go.”
Reducing the amount that students have to carry is just one of the reasons that e-textbooks are becoming more popular. Chet Ozmun, Indiana Wesleyan religion junior, said “The biggest advantage that e-textbooks have over normal books for me is that they’re cheaper than their paper counterparts. Another thing that people don’t really think about but I think is a huge advantage is that there’s no shipping involved if you buy a version that you just download. You don’t have to pay for shipping and you don’t have to wait for the book to ship. It allows me to put off buying a book for my classes to see if I’ll really need to use it. If the book is called for a lot, it’s just a few clicks away.”
The world of digital books isn’t full of positive advantages. Computers can always fail, and batteries die. The cost of purchasing a laptop or e-reader also makes the start-up cost higher. “Can you sell a used e-book? No, so the net cost may be higher,” said Jacobs.
“E-books aren’t for everyone,” said Mutchler, “my friends are hesitant to try them because a lot of them don’t have a laptop or other e-reader, which is one of the biggest costs associated with the medium. Southwestern College takes care of that cost for you though. They buy every student a laptop, eliminating the need to purchase a reading device.”
Nick Hofmeister is a junior majoring in new media. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.