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Digital textbooks are the way to go

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In a 21st century age of tablets, smartphones, smart cars and digital readers, the world of higher education still insists on using 500-page, printed textbooks for every course, each usually costing a pretty penny.

It is time for college textbooks to catch up with the rest of the technology world.

According to the College Board, the national average price for books and supplies at four-year public colleges is $1,168 annually.

That does not even take into account if professors require the latest edition of a book, which usually adds to the costs exponentially.

Textbooks should all be available online and digitally for the purchase and use of students. The use of a digital copy of a textbook has many benefits that assist in easing the higher education burdens.

Digital readers such as the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle offer the option to purchase and download textbooks at fractions of the cost of the printed version.

An Amazon Kindle can cost as little as $79 and if students purchase textbooks digitally, they can save up to 40 percent. What does that mean as far as costs? The Kindle essentially pays for itself in one semester.

This semester’s Economics 220 book can cost up to $185, but when purchasing the digital Amazon Kindle version, students can save about $45 and have the book at their fingertips.

Also, the Journalism 100 book costs about $130, but the Amazon Kindle version costs $50 less. In the long run, students could get two textbooks, a digital reader and a lighter load for the same price as two printed copies of textbooks.

Apple launched its new iTunes U textbook service in January. It features interactive textbooks for the iPad and lets instructors create their own custom books for each of their courses.

Another benefit to digital textbooks is students will not have to lug around heavy books, because they will all be downloaded to a single device.

The devices also save highlighted text, notes written on the pages and bookmarks where the user places them. This feature saves the never-ending purchase of highlighters and other note-taking supplies.

Faculty members need to look at the textbooks they are choosing to see if digital options are offered, so to accommodate the interests of their students.

If more students choose the digital option, they will save money and save trees all while still getting their information for their courses.

If everyone or at least most people involved in higher education jump on the digital textbook bandwagon, we can only hope the results give a cheaper, lighter future to the next generation of college students.

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