Last Updated: March 31, 2020, 2:41 pm

OPINION: Paper textbooks help students more than online textbooks, need to remain affordable

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There are different benefits to both paper and online textbooks, but paper textbooks are still the most popular option for students. Graphic by Kelsey Jackson.


Online textbooks and their features are trying to overcome the market, but paper is still on the higher branch.

According to a naepub.com study, online textbooks can be up to 60% cheaper than the printed option; however, the value of paper textbooks is much greater.

Online textbooks have a lot of great features: portability, search features, and many more.

Online textbooks have a lot of great features, but paper textbooks are still on top.

According to this study from academia.edu, The Surprising Foil to Online Education: Why Students Won’t Give Up Paper Textbooks, paper documents have been shown to support memory and retention of information compared to digital documents.

Paper textbooks are easier to read and highlight. The text is clearer and much easier to read than if it were on a screen.

According to the same study, “Research shows that comprehension is higher when reading from paper than online.”

I have a much more difficult time trying to retain information from an online textbook over a paper one. Online textbooks, for me, are harder to read and I struggle to retain information because there are a lot of distractions on the screen.

Although the portability and cheaper prices of online textbooks are nice, it isn’t enough for the majority of students to make the jump. Also, adding a couple of pounds to a backpack can be a great way to burn some extra calories.

Although the environmental impacts of paper textbooks can be a big problem and the production of that much paper for college campuses around the world adds up. The impacts can be greatly reduced by selling textbooks back after each semester and buying used textbooks in the first place.

“A computer is a multi-use tool and my brain associates it with more things than just reading. “

Ben Swallow, DSN Staff

Another option is textbook rentals. This is normally fairly cheap and gives me the most for my money.

According to the academia.edu study, “Students perceive paper textbooks as the best format for extended reading and studying and for locating information.”

Overall, students prefer paper over online textbooks, and I agree with them. There is something about having paper in your hands that makes it much easier to read. I am a very hands-on learner, so having a physical piece of information helps me immensely.

One thing I have struggled with while reading online textbooks is distractions. A computer is a multi-use tool and my brain associates it with more things than just reading.

Conversely, a textbook is used specifically for reading and learning, nothing else.

The academia.edu study suggests that e-textbooks do not yet provide the benefits required by students. Until the benefits of online textbooks outweigh that of paper, I am going to stick with paper.

DSU needs to focus on keeping paper textbooks affordable for students and making sure paper options are available for each class required textbook.

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