4 Reasons Printed Textbooks Are Better Than Digital

*Bell rings* It’s August and you know what that means. Back to school! But let’s be honest, nobody is excited. The kids are sad that summer is over and parents are stressed about the infamous “back to school shopping.”

College textbooks are the bulk of what you need to buy and they’re notoriously expensive. My aunt once tweeted that she didn’t know which was more expensive: textbooks or tuition. When I was in high school, eBooks emerged and some of my classmates used digital textbooks. They read from their laptops, tablets, and even their phones when we read aloud in class. I, however, preferred the physical printed book as did many others. Here are four reasons why printed textbooks are better to use than eBooks.

Help you sleep

Imagine having eight hours of school, followed by sports practice, then theater rehearsal, then maybe doing that whole homework thing. Students are busy people and are always up late studying. Digital books are not the best for late-night test prep. Electronic readers suppress the brain’s production of melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep. eBooks require higher cognitive effort and it hurts the eyes, so paper books are healthiest for nighttime reading (or studying).


eBooks are popular in reading for pleasure because you don’t have to take a test about it afterward. But when you need to remember what you read, print is better. People find that eBooks are hard to absorb. One study had participants read the same story, one group read on paperback and another on a device. They then were asked to put the events of it in chronological order and the e-reader group performed worse. Students who study from a printed textbook will get higher grades.

Less distracting

Plenty of classes read aloud from the book together, but one student using a device could be secretly be on social media without the teacher knowing. Students are one click away on digital readers from doing anything else besides reading. You can’t see text messages on a printed page. Research also shows that readers are more likely to skim pages on an e-book than read it verbatim.

The majority of students prefer printed over digital books anyway. Statistics say that as of 2013, 87 percent of undergraduate and graduate students would choose paper books over e-books if the cost were the same and 92 percent thought paper was easier to read. One reason for this preference may be that students already use electronic devices for leisure and aren’t comfortable using the same methods for school. They like to keep them separate.

Digital textbooks may be less expensive and make your book bag significantly lighter, but there is more to the cost than just money. Students will have a better chance in school if they learn from printed textbooks, but read as many eBooks for pleasure as you like.