Tablets v. Textbooks: the future of learning

By Gregory Smith
March 14, 2013

How many times have you asked someone if they’ve read the newest book in a series or seen the trailer for the newest movie, and the first thing they do is pull out their iPad or Kindle? Tablets are becoming more and more prevalent in our daily lives, and as they do so, they bring their own set of advantages and disadvantages, especially when it comes to college.

Tablets are advantageous in that they enable you to carry thousands of books in one convenient location. The average tablet carries anywhere form eight to 64 gigabytes (GB) of storage that can be used to store textbooks and other materials. This large amount of storage space means you can fit more textbooks in your tablet, and since E-Texbooks cost between 50 to 60 percent less than print textbooks, you also save money.

There are also many technological features that can be utilized through tablets that standard textbooks can’t provide. Interactive maps, diagrams and videos are included in most textbooks for tablets that provide a unique learning experience for college students. Now, how many times have you gone to sell a book back, only to get nothing for it or have the clerk say they can’t accept it because they’ve gone to a new edition? E-Textbooks can be updated automatically for free, eliminating the aggravation of not getting your money’s worth from your book buy-back. Lastly, for all you eco-friendly readers, using a tablet reduces the amount of papers your professors hand out to you, saving trees and helping to maintain the environment.

But with every advantage, there’s also a disadvantage.

Say you get a tablet, put all of your textbooks on it, and then lost it or dropped it and it broke. Then where would you be? You would have lost all of your textbooks for all of your classes, as well as any other pieces of information or books you were using or reading for fun.

Also, the lighting on tablets contribute to Computer Vision Syndrome that cause dizziness, headaches, nausea and blurred vision. Tablets can also cause distractions within the classroom. Tablets have space for games and many have internet access that can be used to surf the web or update your status on Facebook.

Studies have also shown that people who read print textbooks retain 20-30% more than people who consistently read digital textbooks as well as read faster than people who read digital texts. For commuters, their home internet may affect the effectiveness of their tablet. According to the FCC, over a third of Americans (100 million people) do not have home internet. In terms of the environment, to make on tablet, it takes the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water and 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. Print books produce about 100 times fewer greenhouse gasses.

Next there’s the point of battery life. The average tablet battery life lasts about seven hours. This is less than the average school day, especially if you use it outside of class or have a night class.

There is also the question of morality that is called into play with tablets. Now that tablets are getting smaller, it is much easier to pull up information during an exam and cheat.

Finally, only about 30 percent of title textbooks are available digitally. So what do you do if this is the case? It looks like you have to go old school and go back to regular textbooks for college. Personally, that’s the way I prefer it. People have used textbooks for hundreds of years and it worked out perfectly fine. I see no reason to change that now.

 

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Gregory Smith

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