Developing a Learning Culture

Death of Textbooks: 5 Reasons to go Digital

The beginning of a school semester usually brings back the same memories: seeing friends; grabbing course schedules; and of course, the crippling physical and financial weight of picking up textbooks. The thick tomes have become a modern thorn in the side of cash-strapped students who must purchase (and re-purchase) the books they’ll need for the semester. In fact, The College Board estimates that the average student coughs up $1,200 for books each school year, which is a 1,000 percent increase from 1977.

This book-related crisis has us wondering why students put up with it, and why more colleges don’t offer digital textbooks instead. The benefits are staggeringly obvious, and even the government is adopting the technology on state and national levels. If you needed more convincing than just cost, check out some of the following benefits.

Digital is Cheaper

First thing’s first: Producing digital textbooks is extremely cheap. eBooks don’t require the printing, storage, and transport costs of a typical textbook, which means the savings can be passed onto the student instead. There are also fewer costs in distribution (no bookstore employees) and can be downloaded on several different devices.

Digital is Easier to Amend

We’ve all heard the student horror story of the professor who changed one sentence in his textbook and required classes to purchase the new version. It may seem like a moneymaking strategy, but professors really do strive to give their students the best, most updated information. Digital textbooks would make those amendments easier to make and easier to distribute, without causing students to purchase an entirely new text.

Digital is Environmentally Friendly

Sure, you might be able to get a few bucks back by selling textbooks at the end of the year, but many textbooks are tossed each year. Some can’t even be recycled, due to the glue in the binding. But digital textbooks don’t use physical materials, making them the greenest alternative to books in landfills each year.

Digital is Accessible

Find us a college student that doesn’t own a smartphone, and we’ll show you a student with a very limited social calendar. A poll by Pearson found that 83 percent of college students regularly use a smartphone, which is one of the ideal devices for digital textbooks. Internet connectivity means being able to access downloads and keep textbooks in a compact device that most students already have stashed in their backpacks.

Digital Creates Opportunity for Blended Learning

What better way to introduce the highly effective strategy of blended learning into the classroom than to use digital textbooks? By distributing digital materials, professors can better prep students for courses long before they ever make it to the college bookstore. Digital textbooks can also allow for interactivity, such as tapping words for meanings and backgrounds, as well as interactive diagrams and graphs.

Sure, digital textbooks are a no-brainer for poor college students, but what does it mean for corporate education? Consider this: According to, states that have implemented digital textbooks have experienced monumental savings and significant benefits. “According to a state analysis [of Utah], one $80 textbook (used for six years) for a sample size of 5,000 students would be a $400,000 investment for a school district,” says Dylan Scott, a staff writer for “Paying four teachers to work 60 hours over the summer to update a digital textbook, at $30 an hour, over six years would cost a district $152,000. And preliminary research from Utah’s two-year pilot project suggests that students learned as much from their online textbooks as they did from the traditional ones.”

A substantial cost savings and more opportunity for learners to grow and learn from first-hand experience is a fairly compelling argument to make the switch. Traditional textbooks once had their place in education, but modern learning needs to be faster, more adaptive, and less cost-prohibitive. Digital textbooks are only the first wave of technology-based learning materials, and we can’t wait to see what the industry cooks up next.