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Print vs. digital textbooks: Both formats have pros, cons

By JAVON HOLLAND / VN SPECIAL WRITER
On February 15, 2017

Every semester students must decide between getting physical textbooks or digitally downloaded them onto their devices.

Studies have shown 92 percent of college students would rather use physical books than digital ones.

What do UDM students prefer?

Senior Taryn Garrison uses both physical books and eBooks.

“It depends on the classes,” said Garrison.

She finds eBooks easier to navigate but prefers physical books for such classes as math or biology.

“Sometimes I rent my physical books rather than buy them if I need it for what I’m studying,” said Garrison.

She also feels are physical text books are easier to read and eBooks stress her eyes when she is trying to look at the text on her device.

Roberto Pacheco, also a senior, prefers digital over physical copies.

“They are so much easier to transfer, easier to write notes, a lot brighter and clear,” he said. “Digital books are way easier to navigate. It’s all in one place, and I pay much less than I’m paying for physical text books. Plus, I don’t have to carry heavy books around campus, which is such a blessing.”

He believes digital books are the way to go but they have some drawbacks.

“Basically the physical books make it feel more comfortable,” he said. “There are times when I’m in the middle of reading, my iPad goes out and I have to rush and find my charger.”

With a physical book, he said, “I don’t have to worry about all that stuff.”

But, he added, “Sometimes a physical book has wear and tear … which is a drag, because sometimes there are pages missing or the book looks gross from the outside.”

Pacheco said with an eBook you can delete and download it with no problem.

Dr. Joe Abisaid, assistant professor of communication studies, doesn’t really care what form of a textbook students get for his class.

“It really makes no difference,” he said. “I prefer physical books where you can highlight, take notes by writing inside the book. But I know eBooks are a lot cheaper. … I don’t mind either… I leave it up to the students.”

Abisaid is aware that college books are very expensive.

“It is tremendous hardship for students buying textbooks, in addition to tuition and the cost to commute,” he said. “In the past, I have had students forgo purchasing a textbook because it can get really expensive, especially math books which range from $100 to $200.”

High prices keep some students from buying texts, “which is very unfortunate,” he said.

One solution: He sometimes encourages to get older, cheaper editions for his classes.

“It is not that much different from the newer model,” he added. “It’s a way to generate money for the publisher to get these books, and students end up paying the price.”

In the end, it comes down to a personal choice, according to Abisaid.

When he reads eBooks for a long time, his eyes hurt.

“I know eBooks are trying to improve on the cons of their devices but I’m looking at a computer screen all the time,” he said. “For me, I prefer physical books but I know for the cost and convenience that eBooks are more desirable” for some students. 

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