Why Traditional Textbook Tomes Need to Go Digital

Ask any student whether they would prefer to lug around two ten-pound hardcover textbooks or a single six-pound laptop (or even a sleek one-pound Kindle) and chances are the student would rather nix the textbook in favor of something lighter and less backbreaking. Luckily, with the advance of technology, a textbook-free future is within reach, thanks to the growing popularity of electronic textbooks.

Technology has given rise to many new things that make our lives more comfortable and convenient, driving previously bulky and unwieldy things into oblivion. After all, there is a reason why hefty typewriters have been rendered obsolete now that compact computers and laptops are available. In much the same way, traditional textbook tomes need to be given the boot now that electronic textbooks are gaining traction. Printed textbooks are generally large, heavy, and all-around cumbersome. Students who take more than one class each day may have to carry multiple textbooks to their classes, which can add backbreaking pounds to their already overstuffed backpacks. Not only is this an annoyance, but it can impact the student’s health as well. Overweight backpacks can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as problems with posture, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It is not unusual to see students slumping under the weight of their biology and philosophy books. Electronic textbooks can change that. Easily accessible with a computer or laptop, electronic textbooks eliminate the need for students to lug their books to and from class, especially since most students carry their laptops to class anyway. In addition to potentially saving students from health hazards, e-textbooks can also save students money. Purchasing textbooks cost students hundreds of dollars each semester. On the other hand, many e-textbooks are offered free of charge, so even those who must purchase a laptop or electronic reading device to access the e-textbooks will save money in the long run.

As if the potential to save students from backaches and empty wallets were not enough reason to push for a complete e-textbook conversion on college campuses, there is one more positive aspect of making the transition: it can save the schools money. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has voiced his support for changing from traditional textbooks to electronic ones, stating that the switch could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually in printing costs. It costs schools money to order textbooks, as well as to print their own. Even schools that participate in buy-back programs where students can sell back their textbooks back to the school will have to spend money to store all of those textbooks. E-textbooks can eliminate the sizeable costs of printing and storage, which is welcome news for the many schools facing dramatic budget cuts.

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