Weighing options of textbooks

By SpencerRoush

There’s something nostalgic about flipping through a used textbook to find faint musty smells, a few highlighted phrases, notes in the margin and perhaps a leftover bookmark or photo.

Owning anything second-hand has similar qualities, but there is something especially comforting about reading textbooks knowing someone else leafed through the pages and memorized the same

words’ definitions.

But students’ studying materials may drastically change with online content rocking various industries. Physically holding college textbooks and reading other student’s notes in the margin may become obsolete and eventually forced out by a “new and improved” system: e-textbooks.

This wave of digital books has been on the rise for the past few years, but it has yet to fully ignite in the higher education realm. Some companies and college leaders are proposing e-textbooks become required material for studying. Purchasing bound books through an online outlet or pricey college book store will soon be antiquated.

Publishing leaders such as McGraw-Hill Companies and Pearson are getting involved, along with colleges and universities trying this system, but there are pros and cons to the proposal.

Instead of you purchasing a book, the college would charge you for online versions through a course materials fee. Those involved say this would curb skyrocketing prices and may save the textbook industry from digital piracy. Because the college would act as the e-books’ vendor, prices would drop because they would be bought in bulk from the publisher. A single student purchasing one online book can’t compete with the low bulk prices colleges could receive.

If this becomes implemented at higher education institutions, students wouldn’t have to pay outrageous fees for the newest edition of bound textbooks, which was probably only updated to send a burst of cash to the publisher when only a few lines were added making it “new.” Instead, students would be forced through course material fees to buy a cheaper online edition accessible on any computer.

This system would make textbooks readily available without having to lug 25 pounds worth of supplies to and from class every day. But the downside is never being able to turn away from some kind of computer screen. Whether it’s a new iPad, e-book reader, computer, TV or cell phone, it’s nearly impossible to escape from the ever-expanding digital world. Reading books allows people to stray from the monotony.

Print will always have something that digitized materials cannot fully emulate.

Because buying textbooks would no longer be an option through this online system, hopefully professors would actually reference them. It’s normal for college professors to ask students to buy an atrociously overpriced book and never refer to it. Making individual chapters available for purchase would also be a useful addition.

Although e-books don’t offer the same personal feel as a hardcover textbook, there are certainly other advantages college administrators should be looking into as a feasible alternative to overpriced textbooks.