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“Ask The Experts” is written and provided by Scholarship Media. It does not reflect the views of The Collegian or its advertisers.

Many students now have e-readers. Are they really that much better than books?

The technology powering e-readers certainly has a lot of advantages over traditional books, but whether it is better comes down to personal preferences. E-books are inexpensive and can easily be stored or accessed with minimal fuss. A large portion of students still prefers regular books though, claiming that it is easier to absorb information from them. We will take a look at the pros and cons of e-books and e-readers, and you can make up your mind.

With the prevalence of smartphones and mobile devices, it has never been easier to carry a personal library around with you. The days of lugging heavy reference books to and from classes should be in the past. But are they? Studies have suggested that many students still prefer the traditional method of reading and researching with physical books.

There are a couple of documented downsides to e-readers which we shall address first. The likelihood of distraction is much higher on a digital device. The diversion of your social media page or a Youtube video is just a click away. This is not the case when you are reading a real book. Digital media has a completely different feel and ‘weight’ than a reference book, which does seem to be more substantial.

Research has suggested that the amount of information retained differs between digital media and print. This goes back to the distraction issue. Dedicated e-readers are a little better, but the latest tablets and ‘i-things’ have been designed with flashy gimmicks to boost sales. Apple, after all, is the greatest marketing company in the world; some of these tablets have been designed to distract, which detracts from their original function – to convey information.

There are a couple of tech and functionality issues with e-readers. Simply finding the same page again can be a chore. Then you have to keep the battery charged, make sure you have the right adaptor, find a power outlet etc. Some have complained about clunky page turning and difficulty in zooming with text, though this varies with different models. There is a learning curve with new software, but everyone knows how to operate a text book. File standards, or lack of them, can also be an issue. Every manufacturer wants to lock you into their own system.

On the upside, there are a number of advantages to e-readers. First, there is a powerful search function that you just do not have with a book. E-Books could function as a virtual math tutor for students by giving answers to specific questions. The sheer volume of material you can carry in one slim device equates to a truck load of physical books. Sharing and downloading e-books has never been easier, and building your own library for study and pleasure is far easier with an e-reader.

Many devices have sound capabilities, so an e-reader would make learning Spanish, for example, easier by allowing you to hear the language played on your device. Finally, you are saving on paper by not collecting printed books. There are clear advantages to using e-books which outweigh the few minor setbacks, provided that you do not get distracted too easily.

“The advent of ebooks is no more going to kill the pleasure of reading than the introduction of the internal combustion engine made horses extinct,” Michael A. Stackpole.