By Kendal Conner
Electronic books. This simple phrase, only a few decades ago, for most would have seemed to be almost an oxymoron. But with the advancement of technology and the introduction of products such as the Kindle and iPad’s new app, iBooks, the world of “e-books” is on the rise. With this expansion, joining the electronic ranks are the genres of fiction, devotionals, science and the latest addition — textbooks.
I was introduced to this emergent world of “e-textbooks” for the first time this year when, during the first week of classes, my professor told us we had the option to either buy or simply download one of our required texts. Although it was a new concept, I was not surprised by the statement. It never even fazed me that this notion of e-textbooks might be bizarre.
A few weeks later I ran across an online poll addressing the question: “Is it possible for students to learn as well using electronic textbooks?”
Now this was a thought that had never crossed my mind. After reading more regarding this discussion, I started to recognize a trend. People who were a part of older generations, such as the Baby Boomers Generation, were more likely to be apprehensive about e-books’ influence on learning.
I soon realized it is in part due to the generation I grew up in, Generation Y, that I was not taken aback by the swift transition to e-books. Generation Y, or those born sometime between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, is generally known for its knowledge of and love for technology.
For those of us who are members of Generation Y, technology seems to be second-nature because we grew up surrounded by it. In my lifetime, I have experienced the evolution of the Internet, cell phones, iPods, digital cable, DVDs, social networks and much more. It is only familiar for my generation to embrace new technology and, honestly, to almost expect it. So why would e-textbooks be any different?
Recently, I have realized the truth is e-textbooks are different. Textbooks going electronic does not surprise me, but it does concern me, and I am not alone. In a recent article published in “The New York Times,” surveys have shown 75 percent of students still prefer bound textbooks to electronic versions. They enjoy being able to write in the margins and highlight the pages.
I picked up the habit of underlining everything I read from my father years ago, and it continues to be my aid in learning. Whether science, math, English or art, notes in the margins and highlighted sentences have always been my best friends. Although some companies are creating ways to have the bound-book experience on an electronic text, nothing can be compared to actually sitting with a box of highlighters and pens, flipping through real-paper pages and having the feeling of accomplishment after doing the work on your own.
I can identify with why some people might be fearful of this new approach to learning. We have already witnessed the Internet transform the face of education and research, why expect any less from the new world of e-textbooks?