Ebooks are new and hip, but don’t necessarily trade them right away for your good old paperback. This summer I read a review on ebooks by Rick Steves, of CNN Travel. He pointed out a few of their benefits: they’re small, lightweight and efficient for multi-destination travel. You can buy ebooks almost anywhere given their wireless features. But, he countered, they’re not ideal for guidebooks, which often feature double-page maps.
After also learning that ebook sales are now outselling paperbacks and hardcovers on Amazon.com, it made me wonder what college textbook purchases will look like in coming years. When I visited the campus bookstore last month, I was told my statistics professor hadn’t submitted a book order. I later found out in class that we were to purchase an ebook. Three weeks into classes, I can confidently say that I much prefer tangible textbooks to ebooks, at least for studying statistics! It takes me a while to comprehend various symbols and equations, and my eyes glaze over much more quickly looking at a screen than if I was paging through a textbook.
Clearly our relationship to the digital age is something that will keep evolving, but I don’t think “all or nothing” is the best response to the struggle to incorporate new technology into one’s lifestyle. Incorporating online technology—ebooks, for example—when the situation calls for it is the smart thing to do. Converting to online textbooks just on principle of “keeping up” isn’t always beneficial.
A professor sending out links to online essays and assigning a hardcopy novel to read in its entirety makes more sense than having students purchase a huge book, only to assign a few chapters from it. The environmental-science side of me is compelled to point out the paper that’s saved with transitioning to online sources of reading material, too.
However, there’s something about reading a book in a hammock, or writing notes in the margins of a textbook that gives paperback and hardcover books an irreplaceable niche in society. A recent article even stated that students prefer printed college newspapers to online ones. Although some colleges, and even high schools, have transitioned to online-only newspapers, I love The Record’s niche on campus and have learned this semester to balance online articles and also focus on producing quality print issues.
Incorporation, not exclusivity, is key. It applies to most any situation involving a digital upgrade; as Steves wrote in his article, “GPS is most useful in conjunction with a good map and some common sense.”
–Laura Schlabach, editor in chief