The act of reading a book has changed dramatically within the past few years. Today, many colleges are considering making the class textbook and other reading assignments available online instead requiring the hard copy. With this new system, textbooks would be more environmentally friendly. Instead of new books being printed for the courses, they would be on the computer. Also, the cost of textbooks would decrease dramatically for college students. On Amazon, a digitized text or “kindle book” is usually available for less than half the price of a regular textbook. Unfortunately, not all textbook companies are able to put textbooks online.
Although the costs are beneficial and it may be “green”, many students believe that keeping the physical book is better. “I like having a hard copy in front of me instead of having a cord or requiring the Internet for a computer. I like highlighting my textbook and writing notes I can refer to later,” sophomore Middle Level Education major Ashley Testino said.
Having the book to read is easier for some students than staring at the screen for long periods. Sophomore Jamie Cohen already has some of his textbooks online for his engineering major. “It takes too long to constantly click to look for the right pages. I just like being able to flip right to the page,” Cohen said.
“The Internet would be a distracting thing, and I feel that it would become much easier to forget about doing the reading and fool around on Facebook,” sophomore Austin Whitlock said. When books are online, other gadgets or websites on the computer can be distracting. Social media websites can be very addicting, therefore a huge distraction for students who need to get work done.
Another issue students are concerned about is how reliable the digitized books can be. Although the textbooks online would be constantly updated, the internet is not always reliable.
If the digitized readings are difficult for students to keep up with, the instructors would also have to adjust. In many cases, instructors are beginning to adjust to technology changes little by little in their classes already. Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Matt Skillen holds class in computer labs, which allows students can use computers when they’re writing. Skillen also offers students the option of using their book online or buying the hard copy.
“Students in my class are dealing with a great deal of technology in the course. I often use videos and presentations on the computer,” Skillen said. “As well as, for one of my books, I have allowed students to buy the online copy if they want. However, the majority of the students bought the paper form.”
“I encourage students, if they have their own computers, to bring them to class as well. I recognize in doing so, there will be a great deal of inactivity with the course. It just comes with the territory. Their grades depend on the amount of engagement they bring to the course,” he said. Skillen believes that if a student puts the time and effort into his or her work, he or she can usually pass his course.
Digitized reading materials would be a big adjustment on campus for students. When five Elizabethtown College students were asked if they would prefer the online textbook to the paper textbook, all five said they prefer the paper textbook. They all said that the paper copy was reliable and more helpful when studying.
With technology continuing to advance, someday all colleges might be required to use an online textbook, but as we can see, the paper textbook we have grown to love will be hard to replace.