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Reading the Lines, Online: The Pros and Cons of Electronic Textbooks

electronic textbooks

Currently, e-books account for approximately a quarter of global book sales. It’s a demonstration of how e-books and electronic textbooks are transforming the way people are creating, disseminating, and viewing the information in an increasingly digital world.

Downloadable files from various e-book stores now include everything previously found in print format. Today, you can find electronic numbered pages, graphics, tables of contents, pictures, and layout, just like in print books. 

No longer is a book just a stack of papers. Digital textbooks are gaining popularity in the United States and elsewhere across the world. But is this transition a good or bad thing?

In this article, we examine the pros and cons of e-books. Keep reading to find out.

Pros of Electronic Textbooks

Readers who love e-books have no shortage of reasons to give for their preference. Here are some of the top benefits of these textbooks:

  1. E-Books Cost Fewer Resources to Produce

Perhaps the biggest advantage of digital text is that it doesn’t require as many resources to produce as printing does. Ever since its creation in the mid-15th century, the printing press is still in style. Today, book publishers can routinely release astronomical numbers of new books, thanks to mass printing.

What does that mean for the environment?  

First of all, mass printing results in the harvesting of massive amounts of timber to produce timber. The removal of trees in such quantities interferes with the release of oxygen into the environment, among other negative effects.

Also, the process of harvesting, processing, and printing contributes to the high carbon footprint that’s already harming the environment. 

2. E-Books Afford You Comfort When Reading

What’s better than reading a highly entertaining, engaging, or informative book while enjoying supreme comfort?

E-books come with a variety of features that enhance the reading experience. For readers who struggle to read the typical sized font, an e-reader lets you enlarge the font to a size that’s easier and more pleasurable to your eyes. 

E-books also come with a variety of multi-media elements that aren’t available with print books. For instance, many e-readers allow the embedding of audio and video to make reading a more immersive experience. 

Additionally, e-readers provide one-hand experience, meaning that you don’t need to use both hands while reading. You can also read at whatever posture and angle you prefer. And because e-readers have inbuilt light, you can comfortably read the text in the dark.  

3. E-Books Are Remarkably Affordable

Print textbooks can be expensive. Actually, two-thirds of college students find that they cannot afford all of their textbooks. They are often forced to rent textbooks

Compared to their print counterparts, e-books cost less. 

Why? Well, the cost of digitizing text is lower than that of publishing it on paper. Typically, e-books cost 50-60% less than their print equivalents.

Sometimes, a certain print book may not be available in your region, which leaves you no option other than ordering it online. The cost of handling and shipping pushes the final cost of obtaining the print copy higher.

4. E-Books Are Easily Accessible 

How much time, on average, do you spend finding a book you’d like to read?

With an e-book and electronic textbook, you do not have to ransack the local library looking for a particular title. All you need is to search for it in the e-book store using certain keywords or key phrases. That you don’t have to leave your seat to find a specific book is a huge enticement for readers looking for convenience.  

5. E-Books Are Portable

What if there was a way for you to carry all the books you’re interested in reading everywhere you go?

Thanks to the light weight of an e-book reader, you can bring it with you anywhere you want. Yet one such device can store thousands of digital copies of books. For learners wondering how to study better without carrying many books around, e-books are a great solution.    

Cons of E-Books

E-books have certainly come a long way, but they’re by no means perfect.  Here are some of the areas in which they fall short:

1. They Lack the Feel Of Paper 

Perhaps the reason print books continue to reign supreme when it comes to the preference of readers is that, for the vast majority of readers, a book is a sensory adventure. 

Passionate readers love to hold a book in hand, to smell the paper, to flip through the pages, and to look at the beautiful binding. Many of them don’t know how to read effectively unless they’re reading an actual book. In fact, 62 percent of readers between the ages of 16 and 24 say they prefer print books to e-books because they like to hold the product. 

Plus, it feels great to have a book near you, even if you aren’t reading it at the time.

2. E-Books Don’t Usually Allow Sharing

Isn’t it always nice to share a great book with a friend or colleague? 

Unfortunately, many electronic textbooks and e-books cannot be shared as they can only be read with a single account. To share an e-book that you purchased, you have to share your account credentials as well, which can be uncomfortable. It’s one of the most recurring topics in the e-book vs. print debate. 

3. They Have An Unreliable Lifespan

How long will your e-reader last? Print books can last decades or longer, as long as you take good care of them. An e-reader, on the other hand, can stop working at any given moment. 

Moreover, an e-reader requires a battery life to work. If you do not charge the e-reader well or it runs out of charge while you’re on tour, you may just find yourself with nothing to read.

4. E-Readers Can Cause Health Problems

The majority of e-readers feature an LCD screen, which can cause eye problems if you stare at it for too long. 

So what are some of these eye issues? Some readers report eye irritation. Such problems make it difficult to focus while reading. 

Maximize Reading with the Physical Copy

Undoubtedly, the reader penetration for electronic textbooks will continue to expand as the years go by, given the benefits with which these books come. 

But, as with most good things, e-books have several cons as well. The inability of these books to provide the feeling of paper, which is irreplaceable for most avid readers, is a major setback. For readers who love to share their books with other readers and who love a book they can hold onto for a long time, e-books aren’t a good option.    

Ultimately, the choice of what works for you comes down to personal preference.

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About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.