University Chooses Textbooks Over E-books This Year

Students have spent hours every day staring at computer screens. University classes require students to use technology for projects from online research to electronically submitted papers. Some textbook companies and universities are opting to forego the traditional paper-based textbook and instead use e-book versions that can be downloaded or viewed from an internet browser. Is this what is in the best interest of the students?

According to The Institute for College Access and Success, the average college graduate in South Dakota has around $29,000 in student loan debt. Many students feel that switching to e-books could lighten the financial load. Michael Jastorff is the bookstore’s director at Black Hills State University. In his experience, the belief that e-books would cost less hasn’t been shown to be true.

“At this point in time, about 20% is all” that a student could expect to see in savings when purchasing an e-book, according to Jastorff. “It’s not enough of a cost savings that it’s driving the demand yet.”

Major health concerns have been associated with the over use of screen time. These medical concerns must be taken into consideration when discussing if it is worth making the switch from traditional texts over to e-books. In a February 2014 article written in Psychology Today, Dr. Victoria Dunckley discussed a relatively new diagnosis — electronic screen syndrome. Patients with this syndrome presented with sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system. In some extreme cases, brain scans also showed atrophy in the brain’s grey matter and compromised white matter integrity. This affects the ability to process information. College students are already under large amounts of stress and another stressor that could further tax their immune systems would not be wise.

Technology has been known to be unreliable. A frozen e-book would be a frustrating barrier to a student trying to complete an assignment. Jason Miles is the owner of Miles’ Computer Repair, an up-and-coming computer repair service that specializes in long distance tech support. Miles feels that the move to a more digital format is inevitable and ultimately beneficial.

“When making the transition, it is important to do so in a user friendly format,” said Miles. He sees customers express frustration over the format in which some e-books are offered. McGraw-Hill has been known to lock students out of accessing their assignments at the same time as their text. For Miles, there needs to be some changes in how these e-books are designed before they can be considered a viable option.

Despite the many failings of e-books, some students feel that it would be an effective option. BHSU junior Ashley England said that she would prefer this medium.

“Textbooks are heavy,” said England. “I would prefer to not have to carry four or five different books around on a daily basis.”

So, are e-books in the best interest of the students? There are benefits to switching from traditional style textbooks to e-books, but right now the negatives outweigh those benefits. Students already spend a substantial amount of time looking at screens. When it comes to reading their textbooks, it is best to turn off the computer, put the tablet down, and start flipping through paper pages.