Print Textbooks Vs. E-Textbooks

By Andre McNeil | August 27, 2012 AAA

For college students, deciding on what textbooks to buy can be a tough decision. The emergence of e-textbooks has only made that decision more difficult to make. Now students must decide whether they want to buy a traditional paper textbook or an e-textbook. Students should use criteria such as cost, efficiency and personal comfort before making their purchases.

Price
Price will be the most important factor for many students. There is no doubt that college is expensive and the costs of a post-secondary education will only continue to rise. After paying for tuition, fees and various other expenses, there might not be enough money left to allocate towards traditional textbooks.

Even when you consider that certain sites sell textbooks at a much cheaper price, e-books still will be the more affordable option. A quick review of a textbook retailer will show that the online version of a textbook can be up to 60% cheaper than its print equivalent, but that is not the only factor to consider. If you already own a laptop, then there will be no extra costs necessary, as your laptop will be compatible with the e-book. Nevertheless, if you don't own a working laptop, then you will more than likely have to buy a tablet.

e-book Readers Price Range
Kindle $70 to $499
Android Tablet $50 to $350
Netbook computer $300 to $500
iPad $500 to $900
Laptop computer $500 to $2000

A review of the leading tablet retailers will show that you will be paying up to $900 for a tablet. That high of a price may not be necessary for a student, but depending on how many e-books you will be buying, one of the cheaper ones may not be an option, as they tend to have less storage space and may not be able to hold all of your books. At the end of the semester, you can always try to sell your paper textbooks in order to get some of that money back. When you buy an e-book, it cannot be returned.

There are also several miscellaneous costs to consider, including insurance and maintenance of your laptop/tablet. If you damage the book or leave too many annotations, then you may not be able to sell it back. There's also the possibility that you may not be able to use the book for more than one semester as a new edition may be released, rendering your version obsolete.

Here are some additional factors to consider:

Weight
If you have multiple classes in one day, then traditional textbooks may present a problem for you. Textbooks are heavy and typically contain thousands of pages, so carrying multiple books in your bag might put a strain on your back. With e-books, you would only need to carry one device that will house all of your books.

Notes
When you are in class listening to a professor's lecture, writing notes and highlighting important text can help you study efficiently. With traditional textbooks, this is always an option as all you would need to do is own the book. Only some e-books allow you to highlight and write notes.

Extra Features
This is one category that the e-book absolutely dominates. If you're buying a textbook, especially a used one, you are getting the book and the book alone, whereas e-books typically come with a myriad of extra features which can range from an integrated dictionary, online and media tie-ins that go over sections of the book, and a text-to-speech reader.

The Bottom Line
When deciding between buying a print textbook or an e-textbook, a good idea would be to create a list of pros and cons for each option and rank them based on importance.

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