Make room for e-books on digital bookshelf

By Isabelle Cavazos, COLUMNIST
On April 23, 2014

 

Whether reading them on tablets, laptops, or even cell phones, electronic books (e-books) have been on the rise in recent years.

However, a study by West Chester University professor Heather Schugar and instructor Jordan Schugar found that while middle school students who read e-books were more drawn to reading, they did not retain as much information as those who read print books. The Schugars’ argued e-books offer too many aesthetic distractions that keep readers from the task at hand.

The debate between e-books and print is ongoing. However, the print enthusiast argument should not be based on how easily distracted someone is when reading in a different medium, especially when the benefits of e-books overshadow the counterproductive “flashy gimmicks” the Schugars believe is characteristic of them.

Though the number of those reading physical books has remained the same over the past few years, 28 percent of Americans read e-books this year, compared to the 17 percent who did in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center poll. The increased popularity of e-books in recent years is not all that can attest to their acclaim.

While some still consider the experience associated with reading e-books deserving of its own verb, “e-reading,” the most important aspect of the act of reading — the content — does not change.

Despite the perceived negative attributes most technological conveniences share — particularly, that they create shortened attention spans, or, as with e-books, deprive readers of a tangible page to turn to and doggy-ear — the use of e-books as opposed to print books should be criticized in terms of whether it has more to offer to readers.

For instance, many students using e-textbooks consider them more affordable than traditional textbooks. The National Association of College Stores, a non-profit trade association, reports that students can save as much as 40 percent from using digital textbooks and used textbooks. This figure can make a profound difference for the average college student, who spends approximately $1,200 on books and other supplies in a year at a four-year public college, according to the College Board.

Additionally, the USF Bookstore website includes an informational page about e-textbooks urging students to go digital because of the unique conveniences of e-textbooks where traditional ones fall short, such as the ease of not having to carry the weight of numerous textbooks and the ability to cleanly make removable highlights and notes.

The primary requirement needed to enjoy the ease and accessibility of e-books is to pay attention to the material presented in it, rather than ensure one will not become distracted when trying to learn a new concept. While there will always be some skepticism when approaching new technologies, they should not be criticized when they are not being used for their intended purposes — which, in this case, is simply to present information.

Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.

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