Friday, September 16, 2011

Disadvantages of E-Textbooks

Before I begin, I should mention that I don't have any e-textbooks. All of these points are inspired by a friend of mine that bought all of the textbooks she could on her Kindle.

1. No resale
This is the main disadvantage that I didn't even think about until she mentioned it. If you buy hard copies of your textbooks, you can sell them somewhere and get some or most of that money back. But if you buy the e-book versions, you can't sell that anywhere.

2. No highlighting
I'm not positive but I think there are some e-readers that have highlight capabilities. But if you don't own one of those, then you lose the ability to highlight and make notes as you read the chapters in your hard copy textbook. I highlight a lot when I'm reading because I find it helps me focus rather than constantly zoning out.

3. Pages can be messed up
One of my friends with e-textbooks found out that, for one of her books, if she needs to get to another page she has to flip through the section titles rather than just finding the right page number. Also, if you need a certain page and you're not sure what the number (or section title) is, you can't just flip through them real quick looking for it like you can with a hard copy.

What do you think? Would you buy hard copy or e-textbooks? If you've bought e-textbooks, what are the advantages and disadvantages?


E.J. Wesley said...

Hey Rachel! Just wanted to throw in my $2 ...

Pretty much every eReader allows you to highlight and add notes. Some of the early ones from a few years ago might not, but now even the cheap ones let you do that. (You can also highlight and do word/phrase lookups, etc. on the internet connected ones.)

The resale is a valid point. I think that's why Amazon is doing the textbook rental thing. You shouldn't pay full price for something you can't trade as you want (in my opinion). You COULD save the downloaded book files to a memory card of some kind (almost every reader out there excluding the iPad has some sort of auxiliary card port, and even the iPad you can drag the files onto your computer when you connect the two) and then sell those. HOWEVER, I don't think that is strictly legal, so I can't recommend it. Which makes zero sense seeing as how it is perfectly legal to buy a paper book and re-sell it. I think the difference is that you can still retain a copy of the digital book even after you sell it, which you can't do with a paper book. So basically you'd become a printing press. :-)

As for the page formatting thing, that's totally on the publisher of the book. Unfortunately, there aren't any forced standards for eBook formatting, which can lead to all kinds of funky stuff depending upon the device being used. Personally, I'd like to see education institutions get involved and make their textbook vendors adopt a standard format for eBooks. I think they're the only ones with enough clout to get it done.

All great points you bring up!

Caitlin R. O'Connell said...

About 90% of my textbooks have absolutely zero resale value, because they aren't really textbooks. They're sort of how to write books, which will get you about fifty cents back. It's irritating when you paid $20 and can't sell it back if you don't want to keep it; as ebooks are cheaper than physical books, it would be something I would definitely do if I had an ereader.