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Go Traditional Over Digital

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According to Kist (2010), Gunther Kress had described that “we are going from a page-based society to a screen-based society” because most of the time, the reading and writing people do today is on a computer screen, and texts they are accessing there include not only print communication but also elements of graphic design, video, sound, visual art, and even advertising (p.2).

Many people today, those who are proponents of tablets over textbooks, say that they are supported by most teachers and students because tablets are much lighter than textbooks, can save the environment by lowering the amount of printing, can increase the student’s interactivity and creativity, and that digital textbooks are cheaper than print textbooks. Richardson (2009) even stated that “there are newspapers and magazines, and there were books in the school and public libraries, but all these resources required more time and effort to find and consume than the average student wanted to expend.” (p.131). But the opponents of tablets say that they are “expensive, too distracting for students, easy to break, and costly/time-consuming. They contribute to eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision”. They also “increase the excuse available for students not doing their homework”. And that it “requires costly Wi-Fi networks, and become quickly outdated as new technologies are released” (“Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?”, 2014).

Coeus (2012) said that these two formats are very similar. They both allow people to do the most important thing, which is to read a book. He also says that the text is the important thing, and not the medium. Although Boris (2012) stated that when comparing the size and weight of several books to the size and weight of a tablet containing the same textbooks loaded onto it, the tablet obviously wins. But once you add in cost and usability in the criteria, the device may not be the best choice after all.

According to Mann (2013), students who study with digital textbooks perform just as well on tests as do those students who use print books, but using digital textbooks can often strain the eyes. She said that this was proven by the students who were involved in the study at Indiana State University. Mann referred to the statements of Jim Johnson, the leader of this study, who stated that “the biggest drawbacks of digital texts cited by the participants were eye strain, cost, and potential technological problems” and that some students were even nauseous after the taking the pretest.

Johnson also stated that the medical term for this is “computer vision syndrome,” which was proposed by Dr. Dennis Siemsen. He said that this is caused because of: one, eyes strain to accommodate smaller print, which is usually smaller in electronic text; two, many devices are back-lit, so the people who use digital textbooks would stare at a bright screen, which is like looking at the bright sun all day; and third, people tend to have their eyes wide open when looking at a screen, which can lead to dry eye. Also, normally, humans blink 18 times a minute, but while using a computer, they blink half as many times.

Now, another disadvantage of using digital textbooks are their cost. Digital text, according to Mann, can cost more than a print textbook, and the student can’t resell it after he’s used it. And not all students can afford the best devices, or any device for that matter, to be used in downloading digital textbooks.

Loaning digital textbooks is another con, which was stated by Cancio (2011). Many people are accustomed to lending other people the books they possess, but there are a lot of applications to download just to lend digital textbooks. Sometimes, even lending digital textbooks have limitations and restrictions, including time constraints and the compatibility of a book’s format to the device used.

Also, McMaken (2012) said that some screens of the devices used are not easily readable in sunlight. She also noted that book piracy happens when downloaded online, in which a book is easily copied and distributed while the author receives no pay.

Coeus (2012) enumerated a few more. First, digital textbooks consume more power because the device used must be recharged repetitively if used too long for reading, without even including the time a person would use for the other applications installed in the device. Second, they are not very robust. If anyone spills any kind of beverage the device, it is probably destroyed, not to mention the couple of scratches it will get, dropping them, and so on. And if it were to be fixed, it would take some time and money, which you could have just used in buying several print textbooks. Lastly, they are not readily available, concerning the format of the digital textbooks (like the formats PDF, EPUB, etc.), and the pricing model of the devices to be used.

However, nowadays, many schools promote using tablets or electronic devices where they would download all the needed books during the whole school year, but they do not see the bad effects of these tablets. A tablet or any electronic device that can download eBooks have too many distractions for classroom use because it shifts the focus of the student’s learning from the teacher to the technology. The students would pay more attention to the downloaded apps, games, and websites in the tablet instead of listening to their teachers and their lesson. It also tempts students to slack off or cheat on schoolwork because they can easily look up the answers in the Internet. Also, for students to access digital content and to complete Internet based homework, students would need home broadband or Wi-Fi, which some may not be able to afford. And lastly, why would tablets be needed when print textbooks still convey relevant information to the students? Students will still learn the basics in their lessons even without any use of tablets, as long as their teachers would teach them (“Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?”, 2014).

That is why many students should still study and use traditional textbooks. It is easier for them to locate information in the text while reviewing or writing papers. It leads to better recall of information when taking an exam. And it allows cognitive mapping, which is the “process of using cues to remember where you saw the information in the first place” (Boris, 2012). While doing research, sometimes students need to consult several books at the same time, and using traditional textbooks are more convenient than opening and closing one book to another when using digital textbooks (Wang, 2012). Also, they are portable, cheap, and easily obtainable because bookstores are found everywhere. It doesn’t need batteries, and it can be read just about anywhere (Coeus, 2012).


Boris, C. (2012). 4 pros and cons of e-readers vs. textbooks. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/48186058/ns/technology_and_science-back_to_school/t/pros-cons-e-readers-vs-textbooks/ Cancio, C. (2011) Are e-readers making books obsolete?. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/e-readers-making-books-obsolete.htm Coeus (2012). Ebooks vs. paper books: The pros and cons. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://coeus.hubpages.com/hub/Ebooks-Versus-Paper-Books-The-Pros-and-Cons Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: Teaching in the new media age. SAGE Company. Thousand Oaks, California. Mann, L. (2013). Pros and cons of digital textbooks. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/features/ct-x-0807-college-kids-eyes-20130807_1_print-textbooks-digital-textbooks-computer-vision-syndrome McMaken, L. (2012). E-books vs. print books. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0812/e-books-vs.-print-books.aspx N.a. (2014). Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://tablets-textbooks.procon.org/ Richardson, W. (2009) Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed.). SAGE Company. Thousand Oaks, California. Wang, A. (2012). eBook vs. printed book: 5 pros & cons of eBooks. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://ebookconverter.blogspot.com/2012/11/ebook-vs-printed-book-5-pros-cons-of.html

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