"All I have learned, I learned from books."
— Abraham Lincoln
Books have undoubtedly been the primary sources of knowledge for thousands of years, and institutions of higher education across the globe house vast collections of textbooks, novels, dissertations, and historical documents for the benefit of students and researchers alike. Every year, college students purchase, borrow, and rent a considerable number of textbooks for their classes, and every year these textbooks are updated with new findings presented by leading experts in each field of study. The amount of knowledge that has been obtained and still has yet to be obtained is endless, but what does that mean for the students who must use these extensive resources to further their academic career?
Physical textbooks can be extremely expensive, and the chances of selling back these textbooks at the end of the term for even a fourth of the original price are low. Many students already have to consider their tuition, their living expenses, transportation costs, and countless other factors. Consequently, shouldering the high cost of textbooks can be a major problem. Furthermore, the sheer weight of one term’s worth of textbooks is a burden in itself, considering that college students must tow their books back and forth between classes throughout the day. Finally, the increasing number of newly published books and new editions of established textbooks puts a major strain on the environment.
Despite these disadvantages, paper books have been used for years, primarily because they were the only means by which knowledge could be conveyed through writing. However, the dawn of computer technology revolutionized the way people learn and apply the stores of knowledge that have been accumulated throughout human history. Digital learning, or e-learning, has become a widespread trend amongst schools worldwide and represents an advance in the field of education. For example, ten years ago, students who required specific books for individual research projects or papers had to seek out these materials at the only place within their reach that could provide books on such specialized topics: the library. However, it was not guaranteed that the library would have a particular book; as a result, students would have to wait for the book to be shipped to their library, thus causing a considerable delay in obtaining the information required for classes. In addition, students who could not afford to buy textbooks relied on the library, but with so many students clamoring to borrow the same textbook for the same class, this method presented considerable difficulties.
With e-textbooks, students can obtain all of the learning materials they require immediately through the Internet and for half the cost. Furthermore, e-textbooks can be stored in one device, thus eliminating the burden of dragging a heavy backpack back and forth between classes. E-textbooks also allow students to access resources through convenient devices such as computer tablets and smart phones, and therefore can be used simultaneously with various note-taking apps or file-sharing programs. The creation of electronic styluses has also increased the convenience of using e-textbooks and engaging in e-learning. With so many new tools and learning methods at their disposal, students in today’s society do not have to accept the financial and physical burdens associated with physical textbooks. Thus, they can be free to read countless books and focus solely on the process of learning, applying, and sharing knowledge.