To textBook or tExtBook: Digital vs. Paper

While I am still looking into what classes I will be taking, I’ve been hearing over the last couple years, about the joys of E-Books for students.

Everything in me thinks this is a terrible idea. After all, my aspired degree is my Masters in the Worship of the Written Word (Some might call that an English Degree). It is my job to be an advocate of the printed word as well. After all, should the grid go down, we’ve just lost all those files, and thus, in some cases, unprinted e-books. That would be as devastating as the burning of the Alexandria Library


Printed Book

  • Traditional
    There is nothing like the feeling of marching onto campus, looking at the giant trees that have been there for generations, and holding your newly acquired books, just like students over the past decades (and in some Universities’ cases, centuries).
  • Widely Available
    You’ll be able to find the books you need at your college bookstore, and if not, then on other websites such as Amazon or
  • Marking In them
    If you’re anything like me, I really enjoy having a highlighter in my hand to mark any important passages.
  • You can re-sell them
    Especially for the student trying to pay their way through their classes, selling back their books can give them money for the new quarter
  • You Can Sometimes Rent Them
    Some Barns and Noble stores offer the option to be able to rent textbooks at half the price it would cost to buy them.
  • Libraries Carry Them
    Well, some libraries can cover some of your textbooks. Then they’re free! You just have to make sure you think ahead and reserve it during your quarter.


  • If you have more than one class in a day, then you’re carrying as many books as that class requires
  • Expensive
    Textbooks do not come cheap! If you’re not lucky enough to find them used, or are one of the first classes to be using this edition, you can be looking at paying upwards of $50 (minimum!) per book.
  • You can mark them
    I know that completely contradicts my pro above, but let’s face it, while it’s fun and can be a useful study practice to mark in your books, it can reduce the buy-back price.
  • They take up space
    Some of us really thought that book we had to get for Poli Sci or English was really interesting and useful, and could be a good reference for future classes. However, they will take up room on that bookshelf – which, if you’re anything like me, is already stuffed full of books that you have put under the same category.


  • Instant Gratification!
    You don’t have to go to the college bookstore and wade through all the isle looking for your books, hoping you weren’t the unfortunate that arrived just after the last copy was purchased. Nor do you need to wait for shipping time! It can just be instantly installed onto your iPad, Kindle, Tablet – whatever it is you might have.
  • Can Take it Anywhere
    This is obvious, but what I mostly mean is you can transfer it to whatever device is needed, whether it’s your computer, your phone or your iPad/tablet device.
  • eBooks Go Beyond a Book
    Some eBooks provide links n their text so that you can expand your reading and learning onto the web. They might even include videos as well.
  • Text To Speech Option
    This means that some eBooks may give you the option of listening to the text instead of just reading it. This can be handy if you’re crunched for times and need to get other things done while you also need to read a passage, or if you’re like me and in a constant state of needing to multi-task
  • Eco
    No pages means no trees were sacrificed. No ink means no oil gone into the book. However, unless you have a solar charger for your device, you’re still needing to use electricity to keep your book going
  • Cheaper
    Ebooks can be 40-50% of the listed price of printed textbooks
  • Come With a Search Tool
    Instead of going to the index and trying to find the page that has the most information on photosynthesis and wading through all the pages that just mention the word once, you have a built-in search tool, that can do it a lot faster for you.


  • You Can’t Write in Them
    Like I said, I really enjoy highlighting things. Though if you are really comfortable with the screen of your device, there’s always the option of over-head markers…
  • You Can’t Sell Back of Lend
    I’m a huge fan of sharing-is-caring, and love to help a friend out when it comes to anything. So lending out a text book to save them some money during their class would unfortunately not be an option. Nor would trying to get some money back on the book by selling it.
  • You Cannot Print Pages
    Just aren’t allowed to, and in some cases might not have the option to.
  • No Going Off-Grid
    Sometimes going away for a weekend is alright as long as you bring your books. But if you’re going camping, you better make sure you have some means of charging your device, otherwise you’re not going camping and doing homework!
  • Not As Available as Printed Books
    According to Boston University, only 26% of textbooks needed are available in eBook format
  • Rented (Yay? Nay?)
    You can rent an eBook, however, it will expire at a certain point, usually after 180 days.
  • Can’t Tough Out a Coffee Spill Like a Book Can
    I’m not saying the 100% of the time a coffee spill will devastate your device but….it’s best not to experiment with liquid and eBooks. With your boring old paper book, at least the worst expected is some sticky and stained pages, and a lesser buy-back value.

There are a lot of options for both, a lot of things to consider. But I suppose for me it just boils down to one question:

Am I a traditionalist or a Technocrat?

While writing this whole thing out, I was rooting for the obvious choice to be traditional books. But, I learned a few things, and perhaps my thought process is out-dated. What was your decision?

Here are some other helpful links:


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