Duke It Out: The Textbook Throwdown

[It’s pretty obvious that the average CollegeCandy reader has some very strong opinions. Opinions that she likes to share with everyone on the site. We love a strong woman, so we thought we’d give her a real forum to discuss her thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Every Friday I’ll be featuring a hot topic (like the gyno-gender debate!) and leaving it up to you, the readers, to duke it out. So, read it and get your debate on in the comments section below!]

It’s textbook time again – the moment when you look down your syllabus and groan at the hundreds of dollars that could have gone to things like food (or that fantasy fall wardrobe) that you will instead be laying down for an eight-pound anatomy book. Sigh. Well, don’t get your panties in a bunch just yet; suddenly, there may be other options. Between some schools giving out Kindles for free <incoherent jealous muttering> and a few textbook companies making their wares available for download on smart phones, this year we could do away with the piles of heavy, bound books…

But do we want to?

I have to admit, as a writer, I have a deep love of books – I love having them on my book shelf, I love thumbing through the pages, I adore the way they smell (yes, I’m a book-geek). But I also have to admit, I own a Kindle (and I’m not the only one!). As much as I love the paper-and-ink babies, the average college student spends $900 on textbooks. 900 freaking dollars! And like buying a car, you probably aren’t going to get most of that hard-earned cash back, even if you resell the books back to the bookstore (assuming you get any at all). Most e-readers or phone apps give you a break on the prices of books, which could be a big deal if you’re strapped for cash.

Also, unavoidably, books are heavy, and particularly if you’re majoring in something like bio-chem, you could be looking down a semester of lugging around your body weight in textbooks. So being able to tuck an e-reader the size of notebook into your bag and still have all of your books is a major plus point. Oh yeah, and bonus points to the electronic books for being green – way to save those trees!

The downside of course is that, as hard as they try, there are some things that e-readers just can’t do the way books can. Sure, you can highlight and make notes on the thing, but you’re going to have to spend more time tapping it out than you might with paper and pen, and it’s harder to go back and flip through your notes that way too. And speaking of notes, remember the Orwell debacle that Amazon had a while back? Remember how everyone who had been making notes on those books on the Kindle just lost them with no hope of recovery? Yeah.

You also have to contend with the fact that you can only get books on your e-reader that have been digitized to the online store, and if one of your required books isn’t on there, then you’re going to have to shell out for the paper copy anyway. And, while they may save you money on the books, e-readers are still an expense, one that you have to weigh against your possible savings. Finally, let’s not forget that at the end of the day e-readers and phones are technology, and like all tech, if you forget to charge the battery, all you have is a big hunk of plastic. I don’t know about your school, but I doubt my teachers would accept “I forgot to plug in my book” as an excuse for not having your text.

So which way do you lean? Are you as torn as I am? Will you embrace the technological revolution or will your backpack still be full of books this semester?

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