That’s Debatable: Are E-books as Effective as Hard Copy Textbooks?


One of the many differences with online school is doing more reading online. But are online books as good as paper books?


In today’s classrooms, many textbooks are now available electronically. Some may question whether e-textbooks are as useful as hard copy textbooks. However, there are many advantages to choosing as e-textbook over a printed one. 

With the current student generation’s aptitude for technology, the use of e-textbooks is on the rise. This generation is extremely familiar with electronic devices and is able to navigate the world of e-textbooks with ease. 

A study done by the US Department of Education found that instruction based on technological resources can reduce the time students take to reach a learning target by 30-80%.

Electronic textbooks are also very environmentally friendly and save millions of sheets of paper. Data from Green Point Publishing shows that the paper book printing industry requires about 32 million trees and 16 million tons of paper each year. They also claim that each printed book releases about 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, leaving behind a huge carbon footprint.

Many electronic textbooks for schools also offer additional activities online which a printed textbook does not. Some offer additional questions, practice quizzes, and integrated dictionaries for example which are helpful studying tools. 

Most e-textbooks also allow the reader to highlight text throughout the book, which  cannot be done in a school-owned printed textbook. 

Although some people may think that accessing a textbook online is too distracting for students, the fact is that we are now living in a very digital world. It is an important learning experience for students to learn how to focus on electronic content. 

Wearing a heavy backpack can be damaging to a student’s spine. Textbooks on average weigh about 2 to 6 pounds. When students are carrying multiple textbooks in their backpack in addition to their Chromebook and other school supplies they can cause significant damage to their neck, back, and shoulders. E-textbooks allow students to carry one device rather than multiple heavy books. 

E-textbooks allow schools to more affordably adopt the newer editions of textbooks. Once a school invests in large quantities of a hard copy book it is difficult to spend money purchasing the new additions. E-books enable them to obtain newer additions with less cost and difficulty. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both electronic textbooks and printed textbooks, but when comparing the two options the benefits of e-textbooks are clearly evident. 

Written by Grace Williams


Ebooks aren’t as effective in learning environments. When our whole lives are spent looking at our electronic devices, it’s hard to associate learning with a screen. When I think of learning, I see a textbook, not my computer with my textbook name in my search bar. 

Not everyone has access to devices that these e-books are on. While students with online learning initiatives are given devices to use, not all of them will have access to the internet. We can bring textbooks anywhere, while ebooks are only available at a place with a steady wifi connection. 

How are we supposed to be focused on the reading or math problems when we have access to games and movies on the same device? Teachers can trust that students are learning with textbooks in class, but our computers can be used for so much more. 

“Students are one click away on digital readers from doing anything else besides reading,” NextPage said.

While ebooks can be skimmed, textbooks help the student slow down and process the information they’re reading. 

“Ebooks are designed for speed with skimming, scrolling, and linking. But physical books are designed for slow processing, with larger pages, no links, and concentrated singular lines of thought,” TheBestSchools said.

With all the chaos that ensues after school ends, some students don’t have time to do their homework until late at night. If they are using an ebook right before they go to bed, it will be more difficult to fall asleep and even then they’ll be tired in the morning. The light of your lamp doesn’t do the same amount of damage as the light on an electronic device.

If some students use ebooks and some use printed books, how is the class supposed to read along with each other and understand what page they’re on? When transferring a book onto an ebook, the pages change, especially if another font or font size is chosen.

When not everyone has access to ebooks and it’s harder to work alongside others, why shouldn’t we stick to what we know and continue to use hard copy textbooks? I would rather lug around a heavy book than not sleep because I needed to use my computer to read my biology chapter. Ebooks are good for many reasons, but textbooks remain a better way to learn in school. 

Written by Millie Alba-Sommers