A Disucssion of Whether E-books Will Replace Paper Books

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About this sample


5 pages /

2313 words

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5 pages /

2313 words

Downloads: 115

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Can digital devices replace traditional textbooks? (essay)
  3. Reflection
  4. Conclsuion
  5. Works Cited


Can digital devices replace traditional textbooks? (essay)

The first eBook or electronic version of a printed book was noted in 1971 and was named the Project Gutenberg by Michael Hart. He used a computer for the first time to accumulate, recover, and find information. “Since then, Project Gutenberg (has) created thousands of free texts and copies of books which can be downloaded or accessed online”. But it was still too early for eBooks to become popular as the internet was still very new at that time and was not available to the larger public. Because of this, developments in the eBooks market was slow. But in the year 1998, four major events took place: 1) The first e-book software, the Rocket E-Book and Softbook, was launched; 2) the first ISBN (International Standard Book Number) was issued for an e-book; 3) The US libraries started providing free e-books to the public through websites and other services; and 4) the establishment of Google by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, made it easy for the online users to search anything they wanted which meant everyone interested in eBooks were going to search for them via Google. With these breakthroughs, eBooks were expected to soar in popularity, but the growth was slower than expected and didn’t gain popularity until early 2000sю

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From the year 1998 to 2006, there were fewer developments in the eBook market that could grab attention of the users but the release of Amazon Kindle in 2007 drove up the popularity of eBooks. However, according to Weisberg’s observation, eBooks that were available in 2009, “… offered little more than straightforward reading capabilities” which was the same when they first came into the market. But later in the year 2010, the e-Reader devices started to come into the market with features of basic note taking, highlighting, and searching capabilities. With this transformation in the eBooks, they became more user-friendly and started to gain popularity. By 2010, Apple had released the iPad along with iBooks and its iBook store on iTunes, selling half a million eBooks in less than a month. Google also saw their eBook store finally taking off but more importantly, Amazon reported its eBook sales outnumbering its hardcover book sales for the first time. This was very important because Amazon originally started as an online book retail company and this surge in sales of eBooks clearly showed the change in user’s acceptance regarding eBooks while also underlining the future prospects of eBook.

In their article on eBooks Chen, Gong, J. Yang, X. Yang, and Huang mentioned that “A digital textbook maximizes the convenience and effectiveness of learning by digitizing existing printed textbooks, to provide the advantages of both printed media and multimedia learning functions such as images, audiovisuals, animations, and 3D graphics as well as convenient functions such as search and navigation”. The development of modern tablets having extra battery life, along with these enhanced features of eBooks made it more convenient to the readers and maximized the productivity for reading.

There are different types of eBooks available in the market today. Some of them are simple digitized versions of traditional textbooks available in different formats, e-textbook with additional features such as links to various media including videos, podcasts, live hyperlinks, and other resources, and interactive e-textbooks. In my opinion, the most useful among all them is the Interactive e-textbooks. Because interactive eBooks contain concepts, explanation videos, etc. and can store data of the student’s progress such as what chapters have been completed, what questions have been attempted, and so on. They would be most helpful to people with special needs and impairments. In addition, these books offer benefits, like their portability; making them accessible to use on mobile devices which allows users to view videos, audio clips, pictures, slideshow, etc. Thus, these books are able to teach the concepts contained in the book like a tutor and provide the feel of classroom environment completely online. To further my point, I would like to share my own experience of using interactive e-textbooks which has been a great way to learn statistics. As an online student, I took many courses and have experience of using various types of e-textbooks. Among them, the most useful book I used was the interactive textbook for learning statistics class which was offered by BYU Independent Study. It required an e-textbook from Macmillan Learning with Launchpad access. They have inbuilt assessments and quizzes which help instructors to monitor student activities. The only drawback I saw was the fact that I could use the eBook only for one year due to publisher’s digital rights licensing limitations. This can be a little disappointing for the end-user as unlimited viewing licenses can be expensive or might not even be available.

Another advantage of using eBooks is their additional features that are able to enhance the instructor’s teaching process. They are being used by many instructors to enhance their study material and present the information to students in a clear way. This helps students better adapt to various classes that might be challenging for them. As instructors play an important role in the textbook selection, they need to select the best instructional material to meet their instructive needs at the lowest cost for the students. Apart from that, the eBooks are being used in libraries throughout the United States. Modern libraries too are going to be benefited with eBooks, “Libraries of the future may be hybrid environments in which different media contribute to their evolving service and accommodate the developing needs and expectations of patrons”.

Digital libraries can eliminate manual and physical processing such as packing, unpacking, shelving and physical circulation of books and also to save cost in the whole acquisition process because of the instant delivery of an ordered e-book title. In addition, there is no risk of the book being lost, stolen or damaged nor are there any physical space requirements. Given appropriate licensing models, e-books provide concurrent access to heavily used titles. E-books enable libraries to stock a broader range of material in individual subjects and access essential material.

Along with the current developments, the key feature of a future eBooks that can be expected is its further flexibility to the readers. It must be adaptable to the requirements of different teachers, students, and groups of learners. “E-books have the potential to provide teachers with a teaching tool that can help them to effectively deliver their lessons to their students”. An eBook which is designed to meet the needs of the instructor and student will definitely be accepted more than the printed textbooks. Many factors effect on why users accept or prefer eBooks such as readers comfort, habits of reading, the cost of the book, acquaintance with the function of eBooks, easy accessibility, etc. “… meanwhile, most scholars acknowledged that eBooks have the potential to complement print textbooks and broaden their use in the near future only if some identified hurdles can be solved”. The problems like eye strain are currently being worked on so that eBooks come with better displays that replicate the look of a paper text like the e-ink reader Kindle. Work is also being done to limit the internet distractions like Microsoft’s focus assist and Google’s Digital Wellbeing that help the users stay focused on their work and take brakes accordingly. eBooks can help when both instructors and students take advantage of all the available features along with cutting in costs.

While comparing the disadvantages of eBooks with that of printed books, both affect the environment in one way or other. However, using an e-book instead of print books is likely to have a lower environmental toll. Every year almost 30 million trees are cut to make printed textbooks in the United States. On the other hand, eBooks are mostly read on computers, laptops, mobiles, and tablets which are made of recyclable materials. Therefore, in comparison eBooks are considered to be more environmentally friendly if properly recycled or disposed of. Duncan, Korey, and Stuart in their article say that “E-waste is a global problem, but on the university campus, the already widespread use of portable, multi-functional devices that could support e-book reading (such as laptops or tablet computers) suggests that the environmental tolls of electronics manufacturing and support could be considered sunk costs (One that has already been incurred)”. Further, it is estimated that for a student, the electricity required to use a full e-textbook program for 16 semesters is about half of the electricity required to print the equivalent program, including paper manufacturing. Therefore, it can be said that adopting eBooks would reduce the environmental tolls of textbook manufacturing all the while solving the problem of what to do with the bulky books after the course finishes. Another advantage with eBooks is that they won’t be occupying the amount of space as normal textbooks do.

Thus, eBooks are considered relatively cost efficient, convenient and interactive, but they may have limited licensing which makes them unavailable to users forever which may be a bit unsatisfying for them. Print textbooks, on the other hand, are always around and they can be exchanged easily unlike e-textbooks with digital and ownership rights. Shin in his article mentions that “When students find valuable information, they want it stored on their personal computer or in a computer network to secure it permanently. They do not consider an e-book as a permanent place to store valuable information”.

Although there are many advantages with eBooks, many students still prefer printed textbooks over eBooks. The main reason for this preference bias seems to stem from the belief that printed books are more convenient than electronic textbooks. Traditional textbooks do not need any special reading device or software. Many have the opinion that eBooks are distractive compared to printed books. Students feel that eBooks distract them while printed textbooks help them keep focused by keeping them away from computers and from the temptations of checking emails, social media or just wasting time by surfing on the internet.

Research seems to point towards many users preferring printed textbooks over eBooks because they find them easy to read, like the smell of traditional books, it gives them the satisfaction of highlighting important text, reduced eye fatigue, and no internet distractions, etc. Daniel and Woody in their article state that, “E-textbooks may actually be less efficient than paper-based textbooks because students take significantly longer to read an e-textbook than the paper version”. Navigating within the textbooks can also be an issue. Mangen et al. in their article on e-books alert the reader saying that “Scrolling is known to hamper the process of reading, by imposing a spatial instability which may negatively affect the reader’s mental representation of the text and, by implication, comprehension”. In their article, Chulkov and VanAlstine noted that “Achievement of learning outcomes was not significantly different between students using printed and electronic textbooks”. In terms of student performance, the usage of printed books gave positive results compared to e-textbooks. According to a study conducted by Jeong in 2010, the possible reasons were, “Reading on a screen might require more concentration than on paper, e-book reading is more error-prone than p-book reading, reading from a screen is not the same as reading from a p-book and it may cause eye fatigue and reduce concentration, which may also affect comprehension”.

eBooks have drawn a lot of attention recently and many researchers have acknowledged the advantages of eBooks and its features such as its portability, easy to search needed text, hyperlinking, highlighting and note sharing. But the missing standards of learning content and functional barriers in the use of eBooks (i.e., screen reading, licensing restrictions) are among the problems that require solutions. There are also other negative aspects of eBooks such as eyestrain and headaches caused due to the electronic display, which may be uncomfortable for the readers.


After reading various articles, I believe that both printed, and eBooks have their own importance, advantages and value although there is a wide spread fear among paperback publishers that eBook market will override traditional books In their article, Muir and Hawes specified that “Electronic and print books can co-exist, and the growth of the former represents more of an opportunity than a threat”. I agree with the statement that eBooks should be seen more as an opportunity than a threat to print books. In another article by Mulholland and Bates, the authors express their opinion saying, “e-Books are complementary to collections and not a replacement of print books and they should co-exist due to the differential benefits of each format”.

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In conclusion, even though eBooks have many good features which supersede printed books, they cannot replace printed books because people perception towards eBooks usage has still to change. In the future, eBooks might attract more attention. A great deal of support and consensus among various stakeholders would be required if we have to harvest the best benefits of eBooks. The usage of eBooks as textbooks among the school children or college students involves instructors, technologists, parents and even policymakers to think how to adapt themselves in using eBooks. Therefore, although eBooks cannot completely replace printed textbooks, the future seems to be one that has both eBooks and traditional textbooks complementing one another helping future users of all ages.

Works Cited

  1. Chen, G., Gong, X., Yang, J., Yang, X., & Huang, R. (2019). Digitized Textbooks: Opportunities and Challenges. In 2019 11th International Conference on Education Technology and Computers (ICETC) (pp. 210-214). IEEE.
  2. Daniel, D. B., & Woody, W. D. (2013). E-textbooks at what cost? Performance and use of electronic v. print texts. Computers & Education, 62, 18-23.
  3. Duncan, I., Korey, S., & Stuart, D. (2014). Exploring the Digital Textbook Practices of University Students. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(4).
  4. Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R., & Brønnick, K. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61-68.
  5. Muir, L., & Hawes, G. (2011). E-books in libraries: a practical guide. Facet Publishing.
  6. Mulholland, J., & Bates, J. (2017). E-books and e-content: developments and trends. In E-content in libraries: Marketplace and cataloging practices (pp. 21-39). Routledge.
  7. Shin, D. (2006). The impact of electronic books on college students: Views from a college library. First Monday, 11(9).
  8. Weisberg, M. S. (2012). The future of eBooks: A new standard of eBooks is needed for e-readers to replace traditional textbooks. Journal of Visual Literacy, 31(2), 1-16.
  9. Yusof, N., Zainudin, F. M., Salleh, S. M., & Jusoh, A. (2018). Acceptance of e-books among university students: A case study in Malaysia. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 15(1), 10.
  10. Zitkus, E., & Steinerová, J. (2016). The preference of students for e-books in academic education. Studia Paedagogica, 21(4), 151-164.
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The Reasons Why EBooks Cannot Fully Replace Printed Books. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from
“The Reasons Why EBooks Cannot Fully Replace Printed Books.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
The Reasons Why EBooks Cannot Fully Replace Printed Books. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Sept. 2023].
The Reasons Why EBooks Cannot Fully Replace Printed Books [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2023 Sept 26]. Available from:
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