The advance of technology has dramatically changed the way students study and teachers teach. One major innovation came in the form of tablets and e-readers, which enable students to study, make notes and read assignments without the need for physical textbooks. Both textbook forms have advantages and disadvantages, and the final decision on which works best comes down to your individual needs and study habits.
Textbooks represent one of the biggest non-tuition costs faced by students. Books for one semester of studies can easily total into the hundreds of dollars, and most students must buy new books twice a year. Traditional textbooks and digital textbooks tend to sit at the same price point, but the used textbook market gives students an opportunity to save money on physical books. Because digital books cannot be sold as used, they must always be purchased at full price.
Textbooks for a full academic workload can get heavy in a hurry. Students who commute to school may find themselves carting heavy textbooks back and forth several times per week. Digital books offer greater convenience in that they weigh only as much as the device on which they are downloaded, and each device is capable of holding hundreds of books at once. It is harder to cross-reference material from multiple books on a single-screen e-reader, but easier to carry several books at once.
Many students learn best by highlighting important material and making notes in their textbooks. Both traditional books and digital books offer pages that can be highlighted and space for notes -- modern e-readers and tablets include highlighting and note-taking options that function much the same as real-life notes. Some students may prefer physical pages and bookmark inserts to virtual highlighting, but no clear advantage exists on an objective level when it comes to taking notes on the page. More powerful tablets allow for in-device word processing, handwritten notes, and other features that enable the student to work more efficiently with books.
Digital books and traditional books have many of the same enemies. Water will easily ruin both a physical book and the e-reader that contains its virtual copy. However, digital pages are safe from tears, and notes made in a digital book can easily be removed or edited. An e-reader in a tough protective case will in most cases stand up to a great deal of abuse and is likely more durable that a paper book. A student who is tough on his books may have more success with an e-reader and a durable case. It's also possible to re-download purchased e-books in the event that a tablet is damaged or stolen, while stolen or damage textbooks must be purchased again.
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