April 21, 2017 by Chris Uzokwe
As the spring weather dawns on us all, the time to transition back to reality has come. This semester, we must ensure that we flourish, and that begins with textbooks. The bookstore offers these books. But at what cost? In a survey of over 5,000 students across college campuses in America, Student Public Interest Research Groups reported students spending on average a total of $300 per semester on textbooks. Personally, I spent $300 dollars on my physics textbook alone last quarter — a real tragedy considering the price I’m already paying to attend.
According to NBC’s review of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, the price of textbooks has seen a 1,041 percent increase over the last 38 years. The prices are appalling, but the books must be purchased. Usually, core classes are accompanied with recitations in which the students go over the most important and relevant questions that are later found on midterms and finals. The questions often come from the assigned textbook, so without them we’d all have a hard time preparing for tests.
Still, it’s possible for students to break free from these financial shackles. If digital versions of all textbooks were offered, a world of opportunities would open for students.
Digital textbooks — textbooks available for digital download that can be viewed as a PDF — easily solve the problem of price. They are available on Drexel’s bookstore website, and are cheaper than hard copies. The smartest purchase of my freshman college career was renting my General Chemistry book digitally, rather than getting that hard copy. The $200+ I saved really came in handy later.
Going digital can also help the environment by saving paper. It also prevents an abundance of outdated textbooks that end up outdated on classroom shelves. An average classroom can contain around 9 thousand pages of wasted material!
The Green Press Initiative, an organization that works with book and newspaper industry stakeholders to conserve natural resources, preserve endangered forests, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize impacts on indigenous communities, discusses the usage of paper to print textbooks yearly.
“Each year, approximately 30 million trees are used to make books sold in the United States — 1,153 times the number of trees in New York City’s Central Park. Many of these trees are sourced from endangered forests with devastating impacts on the people and wildlife that rely on them,” its site reads.
So, by making the switch to digital, we can minimize the impact our actions have on forests and wildlife.
Some argue that digital reading induces strain on our eyes due to a phenomenon called computer vision syndrome. This is where the eye muscles cannot keep up with the strain that comes from continually refocusing on small text, with backlit screens and distractions such as ads. While this is understandable, (and I have experienced this a few times myself) today electronics are adjustable to nearly any eye. We can brighten and dim screens, zoom in and out, and even remove ads. Also, there are many reading applications and hardware that mimic the readability of a book to a tee. With so many options, the effect of computer vision syndrome is lessened.
We should consider making the switch to digital textbooks. If we do what we can now, we can push our future toward a less expensive and environmentally friendly education.
It’s time for a change.