With remote learning in place for the Spring 2021 semester, the age old question becomes relevant again. Physical textbooks or digital e-books?

You are guaranteed to run into an abundance of different answers when asking a student if they prefer physical textbooks or a digital e-book. 

The most common form of textbook is the physical book. There are plenty of pros and cons for using a physical book. However, the most common negative aspect of physical textbooks is having to lug them around. 

“I’m always torn between these two solely based on the issue of space. Books take up so much room on shelves, in closets etc. when a digital book takes up virtually no space at all,” said James Walmer, a junior ministry major.  

The idea of turning pages and feeling like you are reaching a goal is something you can only get with a physical book. 

“From an ease of use perspective, I find it easier to read a physical book while maintaining adequate back posture, and it’s much more satisfying making tangible progress through a print book rather than finally scrolling to the end of an ebook,” 

Since students are on a laptop attending Zoom meetings and doing assignments all day, a physical book can be a nice change of pace. 

“In person it was nice to have digital books when traveling to class, but I do think that now that we’re on our laptops all day, it feels like a lot of strain on the eye,” said Justin Watson, a junior computer science major.  

In the last couple of years, e-textbooks have risen in popularity because of their convenience. Wherever you are, as long as you have some sort of electronic device with you, there is access to the book. 

“I like e-textbooks because I’m able to wait for my professors to confirm what textbooks I need for the first class before purchasing them without having to wait for them to ship afterwards. I used to spend the first few weeks without books…now I can just purchase them after class once they go over the syllabus,” said Anna Vitols, a junior social work major.  

The easy access to an e-book is something that is simply not possible with a physical book. Waiting a week for a physical book to come in the mail is a hassle and can be stressful if you need the book immediately for assignments. Vitols also mentioned that there are features in e-books that she gets a lot of use from.

“The search features in e-textbooks make it so much quicker to find what I’m looking for, especially when studying for tests,” Vitols shared. Unless you are highlighting as you go, the search functionality on an e-book is unrivaled. 

At the end of the day there is usually one deciding factor: price. Most e-textbooks have a set price. There is not really a used e-book marketplace. If you are buying an e-textbook it is usually at the same high price it launched at. 

As for physical books, there is a huge used marketplace. You can get these books for a small percentage of retail price at plenty of online stores. Although it is not instant access, Amazon’s used bookstore has saved plenty of students hundreds of dollars per semester. 

Personally, I believe that the savings are worth the wait. I usually opt for physical textbooks because of the price. Although when an e-book is my only option, I am reminded how easy it is to use.