In addition to increasing tuition costs, the other big expense students have to carry is the cost of textbooks. Students are always trying to find the cheapest alternative when buying textbooks, like online sellers, used bookstores or sharing with a friend.
An increasingly popular option is to buy the digital version or e-book. Students should make the switch to digital textbooks because it is less expensive, allows access to hundreds of works, and can be stored in one compatible device.
The National Association of College Stores reported the average price of a new textbook is $52. According to Student Monitor, a college market survey group, the average four-year undergraduate spends approximately $650 each year on textbooks.
Pricing is based on many factors that can be avoided when switching to electronic versions.
For example, textbook costs are based on inflation, freight and transportation, bookstore markups, paper, layout, and taxes by federal, state, and local governments.Because these costs come from printing and transportation, they are not charged for digital versions.
The Association for American Publishers website states purchasing an e-book version of a textbook saves students an average of $60 when compared to the cost of either new or used books.
Switching to a digital version of any book will save you from carrying loads of weight of printed material.
Textbooks may vary in size, but a compatibility device, like an e-reader, weighs on average less than one pound and can store thousands of books.
A good example is the Kindle 2, recently released by online retailer Amazon, which weighs ten ounces. It allows you to store up to 1,500 works, including newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Another popular e-reader is the Barnes and Noble’s Nook. This only weighs eleven ounces and depending on the latest version, can store up to 3,500 works.
Such compatibility will help students have all their school texts on hand without carrying a heavy load and make moving around campus much easier.
As a result of the advances in digital and communication technologies, today’s e-book market has allowed access to thousands of books available digitally.
The May issue of Business Standard reported in the United States, 10 percent of all book sales last year were electronic. This is likely on account of an estimated 40 million e-readers nationwide.
As sales rise in the e-book market, more works will be made available digitally and this will help students find what they need digitally and avoid the cost of new and used printed hard covers.
For a technologically-savvy generation of students, it may seem the next logical step is to move from textbooks to e-books. At face value, there appears to be marginal disadvantages in replacing stagnant texts with digital books. However when one takes time to examine and contrast the two, the disadvantages of digital books come to light. Students should not switch to e-books.
The first red flag is compatibility and attainability of digital texts. Not all texts are available yet in digital format, which limits its viability in the academic world. Also, many companies use their own format of digital transcription, which limits the cross compatibility of media between different models of electronic readers.
Another problem adversely affecting the sustainability of digital textbooks is the rate at which technology changes. Much like personal computers and other electronics, either the format or the device is replaced or rendered obsolete by technological innovations. In contrast, a book can be cheaply maintained for much longer.
Printed text also has the advantage of easy accessibility. A printed book doesn’t need power to work or a display device, like a computer or digital viewer and is generally more manageable to transport.
Another consideration is the expense of distributing digital books. Amazon’s Kindle is around $139, which is as much as some textbooks. Should the student buy the digital reader or should schools lend them to students?
It’s just not fiscally sound or reasonable to provide the hardware and software necessary for digital textbooks to thousands of students.
There will come a point in time when digital media will be viable for education, but the hardware is still too new and expensive and many people still prefer the reliability of a text book.
That is not to say the momentum of the digital age is backsliding. More students are becoming technologically literate and willing to work with digital media, but for now digital textbooks are just a promising look at what the future of education holds.