Textbooks in eReaders are here. Are they worth it?

The use of tablets and eReaders are growing increasingly popular, and with more companies getting in on the market share there are plenty of different products to choose from. For those who love to read, Kindle, iPad or Nook are a great ideas, but for school textbooks I’m not so sure.

The bookstore at my school (Bradley University) is owned by Barnes & Noble, and is therefore running a campaign to use a program called NOOKstudy. This software is said to save up to 60% with eTextbooks, will instantly download digital textbooks, and is being offered to students as an eTextbook free 7 day trial. One of their selling points is even that you don’t need a Nook to run the program, as it runs through your Mac or PC.

A brief demonstration video on the NOOKstudy website highlights the fact that with this program you can: take notes, tag content, and add links to relevant web content, customize your highlights and annotations, search everything quickly, search for notes or text across your library, instantly access all your eTextbooks and class materials. All of this is stored in one place, organized by course.

Sure, the video showing all the features is flashy, but I’m not sold. Everything that the program features is something that I already do between my textbooks, notes, and laptop. As I’m reading, I highlight in the book and my notebook, annotate in the margins, can look up more information online, and create both electronic and tangible folders for each classes work.

Barnes & Noble’s goal here is, of course, to sell Nooks. They’re hoping that students will love the NOOKstudy program so much that they’ll go buy a Nook and purchase books and textbooks off of that in the future.

Personally, I will always be one to keep purchasing actual textbooks, and not switch over to eTextbooks. There is just something about having a tangible book that I can bring to class and can physically write in and place post-it notes throughout. So much of today’s world is focused on electronics and it can be nice to have a book in front of you, even if it’s your ten pound calculus book. The big pile of textbooks that I see sitting on my desk remind me of all of the work I need to do for each class and keep me on task.

There is something to be said for the feeling that comes with flipping the last page of a 950-page text. To me, it’s a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of “Hey, maybe I do know all of this stuff after all.” I, like many other college students, spend enough time online and I don’t see studying online working out so well. When I crack open a book, I force myself to buckle down and study away from any possible distractions. If I were to study off a website, I know Facebook and Twitter along with an array of other sites would be open on other tabs as well.

If you were to see me reading on a plane or at the beach, an eReader very well may be in my hand. But in the classroom, I’ll be sticking with the real deal. And I can assure you that come fall, my desk will still have paper folders and notebooks ready for my use in the semesters to come.


  1. MoPete
    June 9, 2011

    Well written. Often times studying requires flipping the pages back and forth – difficult to do with a digital copy. I have also read that many of the textbooks that are downloaded actually expire after the semester is over.

  2. Maria
    August 21, 2011

    Maybe this will change in the future, but it’s still cheaper to rent a textbook than it is to download it to an eReader. There are some books I want to keep for future use, but others I have no need for. I can save hundreds of dollars a semester by renting the books instead of buying them (new or used). My books generally cost me about 40% of my tuition per semester. I’m looking for ways to save money.

  3. Henry
    August 27, 2012

    Textbooks do not work on ereaders