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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Cross Currents: Are you for or against the use of digital textbooks?

Alloy Zarate
Illustration by Alloy Zarate, 2020

With digital textbooks becoming more popular at schools some students feel relieved they won’t have to spend lots of money on books or have to carry them everywhere. Other students like to have hands-on textbooks and a break from looking at the computer all day. We have students with different views on this topic so we asked our staff, “Are you for or against the use of digital textbooks?”


Hunter Clark, Staff Writer

At the start of every semester my search for textbooks begins in the Google search bar with the words “free online pdf” accompanying the title. Unfortunately, finding a downloaded PDF of a textbook is much like pirating one of last summer’s blockbusters: scrolling endlessly, dodging internet viruses and malware, and rapidly closing pop-up ads proclaiming “doctors hate him, find out why” and “hot moms in your area”. 

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The search is exhausting. So why do I, and thousands of other students, go through this every semester?

To start, print textbooks aren’t getting any cheaper. The College Board reports that on average a college student will spend over $1000 a semester on required texts. On average, new editions of textbooks are accompanied by a 12% price increase. If my search for a free PDF fails, purchasable ebooks carry price tags that are just fractions of their print counterparts. 

Textbooks are often heavy, therefore students are more likely to bring a lightweight tablet or laptop to class. Yes, some students will sift through the discount section of REI to purchase a backpack built to survive the slopes of Everest, but that kind of lumbar support definitely won’t match your shoes. Handknit tote bags and Fjallraven Kankens holster iPad Minis and Macbook Airs better than reams of paper, and your back will thank you. 

Truly online dedicated textbooks provide more resources for students. Students can access hyperlinks embedded in the text for additional information or help. When new volumes are published, online textbooks can be updated instantly rather than reprinted. Do you need to be reminded of our world’s deforestation problem? 

If I can get an e-textbook, I will. If I can’t, I search for the next best deal and begrudgingly Bezos’s wallet gets a little fatter. 

Sunny Silverstein, Opinion Editor

As I write this it’s the third hour of staring at my screen and all I can think about is the fact that I have to continue straining my eyes because all of my textbooks are online. 

Educational resources have been slowly transitioning from paper to screens for quite some time but are we considering the long term effects of this practice?  

Of course I can understand the use and progression of online resources and I understand digital textbooks are more cost effective. What I can’t understand is why digital textbooks are enforced at such a rate while little to no information is offered on the possible effects of staring at your screen all day and measures of inclusivity are disregarded. 

Reading is an activity I indulge in often and if all the books I read were formatted on screens I think I would have serious eye problems. 

A condition caused by staring at screens for too long called ‘computer vision syndrome’ is currently plaguing students everywhere. 

“It’s most prevalent with computers, and typically occurs when looking at a screen at arm’s length or closer,” Harvard Ophthalmologist Dr. Matthew Gardiner said. 

Digital textbooks are affordable and easily accessible but many negative effects are being ignored by the education system. 

Online textbooks lack room for new content and exclude people who don’t have access to technology or the internet. What about students who don’t have a laptop at home? Why are we ignoring the fact that some people don’t have access to good internet? 

The argument that online textbooks are more affordable won’t last forever. The more we consume the product the more expensive it becomes and that’s a basic principle of consumerism. 

While digital textbooks are easier to carry around and cheaper than paper right now, the negative impacts outweigh the positives. The exclusion of students from these resources is the most detrimental part and must be reconsidered. 

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