E-Readers To Replace Textbooks? Not So Fast.Are E-readers a practical option for replacing school textbooks?
By: Mikaela Rogers-Ziegler, Sibley Scribe
We live in an age where iTunes has replaced CDs, e-mails have replaced letters and text messaging has replaced talking. Are e-books on their way to replace textbooks? That depends on whom you ask.
Over winter break I visited Brandeis University, where they offer the option of using e-text books through the Nook tablet. You must first buy the tablet, and then the software is free for the student’s computer. You can get free seven-day trials of popular textbooks, and 60% off of all e-textbooks.
When I asked the students who were working at the bookstore, I was lucky enough to get two different opinions. One student used the e-textbooks, and one didn’t. The student who used e-textbooks favored them for the 60% discount, but also liked not having to carry around heavy books around campus. The student who didn’t like them explained that you are reading on a small screen, you can’t write or easily take notes in them, and you can’t resell them once your done using them.
On a more scientific note, according to research done in the past decade, students retain information better when they see information all in one set place, rather than having to see an image in one slide and a caption or explanation in another. Retention of knowledge also went down when the student had more opportunities to veer from the textbook that they were reading, whether that be switching to a different book, or clicking on a hyper link.
Textbooks are set up the way they are for a reason. Images, symbols and graphs are added to the textbook for an enhanced reading experience. The effect of this can be diminished if you read on a small screen.
Though there are changes in e-readers’ formats, the two most common models of the Amazon Kindle, the most common of the eBook readers, are in black and white. This can take away meaning of pictures, graphs and other images where color is important. Some made-for-school e-readers have tried to mimic some advantages of paper textbooks with features like highlighting of text, despite research showing that on an e-reader a student is less likely to actually understand what they select.
There are advantages though. E-textbooks are far lighter than their paper counterpart, and given the fact that books are a huge cost to college students, the 60% discount helps a great deal. Also, the unhealthy effects of a heavy backpack would be diminished. Students would have a larger variety of downloadable textbooks available than is practical to have in print.
In this day and age, having e-textbooks or not is largely up to the student and their own personal preferences, and while there may very well be a time in the future when all books are read on e-readers, I think that for now, they’re better off left outside of the classroom.