The Great Textbook Debate

About a week ago, I was sitting in class when I turned to some classmates and started talking about textbooks.  I honestly don’t remember how the conversation came about, but we got to talking about hard and electronic versions of our books.  I asked if they had any electronic textbooks and they said no.  I was really surprised by that seeing as how I have about half of my books in hard copy and half in soft copy.  It got me wondering how many people in our program actually buy electronic versions of their books, so I decided to ask.

I created a poll on Survey Monkey and sent it to as many TESOL students as I could.  Only 16 people answered out of about 200, but I was happy for the results I did get. The questions I asked are bolded and I have put the answers below.

What degree are you going for?

Master’s: 15
Ph.D: 1

What year are you in?

First: 8
Second: 8

How many classes are you taking this semester?

One: 0
Two: 0
Three: 13
Four: 3
Five: 0

About how many textbooks did you have to buy this semester?

3 or less: 9
4 – 8: 6
9 – 12: 1
13 – 16: 0
17 or more: 0

Approximately what percentage of your books for this semester did you purchase in an electronic format (i.e. available on Kindle, Nook, or other eReader)?

None: 8
1 – 10%: 2
11 – 20%: 0
21 – 30%: 0
31 – 40%: 2
41 – 50%: 1
51 – 60%: 0
61 – 70%: 1
71 – 80%: 2
81 – 90%: 0
91 – 100%: 0

If you had to pick one format for your textbooks, which would you pick?

Electronic copy: 7
Hard copy: 9

As you can see from the answers, the crowd seemed to be divided in half about having hard or electronic copies of their books.  Personally, I decided to experiment with textbook formats this semester by getting half of my books in print and having the other half on my Kindle.  And I’m discovering that I prefer electronic copies.  I don’t have to carry pounds upon pounds of books with me when I want to go somewhere to read, which is nice.  It’s also way easier to locate something since you can use the search feature.  I’m also finding that since I worked in an office setting for five years where I spent 8 hours a day looking at a computer, I don’t really mind reading on a screen.  Some people who took the survey agreed with me.  They left some interesting comments such as:

Soft copies are “…much cheaper, lighter and easier to carry around.”

“…[I] use electronic books more because [I] don’t like carrying heavy books.”

But some other people who took the survey felt very differently.

“The hard copy…allows me to write notes freely with a pen. And it is inconvenient to find out some words or [sentences] in the prior part of an article when using electronic copy. Plus long-time using electronic copy makes [my] eyes tired.”

“I prefer hard copy for multiple reasons. It is easier to skim/scan a [hard copy] book. There is also less strain for the eyes when reading off a book. It is easy to write notes in the margins.”

“I like to mark up the books and read before sleeping (and the light from a screen makes me feel overstimulated at night), so I prefer hard copies. I also now have a professor who doesn’t allow students to use laptops or devices in class; that is unusual, but that being the case I like having a hard copy to refer to.”

When I read the comment about articles, it made me stop and realize that I do really prefer having a hard copy of an article over a soft copy.  I think that is because I do tend to write on article more than I do in books.  Also, a lot of articles are scanned in, which makes their formatting hard to annotate on programs like Preview.  But out of all the comments I got, I think I liked this one the best:

“…I don’t buy any books because the library provides access to all the materials I need and they can be scanned for free for course use even if they can only be obtained from the library for a short period. In 2 years I have never had to purchase a book for a course.”

Right on!  It is a little time consuming to scan everything that is available to us at the library, but if it’s going to save you a couple hundred bucks then go for it!  I may have to try that next semester.

What do you all prefer to use?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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