Digital vs. print textbook war – who cares?

Why the real conversation should be about affordability and accessibility.


The end of print textbooks has been foretold for years with the argument that digital screens would completely replace print. The reality, however, is quite different.

In fact, a recent Purdue University report found that only four percent of the population studied opted to use an e-textbook over a print textbook, concluding that print textbooks are preferred by college students.

While this print versus digital textbook debate carries on, people are failing to notice a larger and much more important point. In reality, who cares what the dominant textbook format will eventually become? Depending on the learner, subject matter, and instructor, one format or another may always be the “better” choice to accommodate a student’s learning style and the instructor’s curriculum design.

The more pressing conversation should be about doing everything we can to help students be successful, graduate on-time, and be prepared for the working world. To do that, we need to lower the cost of course materials for students, increase accessibility, and improve student outcomes, regardless of the textbook format – in fact, both formats have a place in achieving those goals.

(Next page: Improving both affordability and accessibility)

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