Are American universities phasing out the use of hard textbooks? British publisher Pearson announced it would be moving to a ‘Netflix-style’ subscription model over there, in which students pay a monthly ‘rental’ fee to access the texts online.
The idea is designed to give students the chance to spread the cost of their books over the year, while attempting to curb the growth of secondhand sale of textbooks. The company’s chief executive John Fallon said: “Our digital-first model lowers prices for students and, over time, increases our revenues.
“By providing better value to students, they have less reason to turn to the secondary market.”
However, is this really as good as it sounds? As someone who has recently left secondary school, I would suggest they may want to think again. Here are four reasons why:
Being online is just another distraction teenagers don’t need
When I was in secondary school we were set vast quantities of homework. Bludgeoned by the idleness of youth and the amount of homework I received conflicted with my inclinations towards rest and relaxation. This was not helped by the fact that teachers would give us assignments and then expect us to find the information we needed online.
I cannot tell you the number of times I was set very complicated essays, and then be doomed to waste the next three hours of my life trying to find a reputable internet source that could even halfway answer what was being asked. Many wasted hours have gone into such endeavours, hours that I shall never get back. In a good textbook, the information is there where you need it - though not fun, it’s easier and means you won’t spend hours in a digital worm-hole. Even if we stick to online textbooks, it’s hard to escape our parents’ suspicions that we’re gaming and not working, and have to listen to them bang on about screen time.
Information provided within a textbook is reliable, sources on the internet not so much
Yes, the world wide web is beautiful in terms of how utterly democratic it is. The downside of this is that anyone and anybody can have their opinions heard. Granted some of these opinions will be interesting, well researched and based on facts, but the likelihood is they will be largely typed up by morons. Anyone can write any old thing on the internet and come across as an expert and so we have fake news. Is this a safe place for our school children? Probably not.
Textbooks are part of the furniture
I am no traditionalist, but there is a reason they are seen to be the standard furnishing of a school, they have existed for a long time and are of proven worth to schools. Most textbooks are hand-me-downs, having known the touch of many a student. Who didn’t love seeing the label pasted in at the front and spotting the name of a prior owner you knew and loved or hated? You also can’t wrap a tablet-based textbook in your mum’s old wallpaper or sticky back plastic and old magazines - the best bit about being given an old textbook as any student of yore will tell you.
They just feel nicer
I am a 19-year-old book lover. Lover of actual books with pages and a cover. And as a bookish child I was taunted with the insult; “bookface”, in school, but I make no excuses for saying that nothing quite compares to the physical sensation of pulling a book off the shelf and grasping it firmly in my hands. There is a strange magnetism to it that I can’t quite put my finger on but I know it will never be rivalled by the internet. Not to say I haven’t encountered any problems with buying proper books. I have learnt that the pages have a tendency to yellow and gather dust. They are also where bluebottles and moths go to die. They are a nightmare to clean. Yet despite my reservations, there is nothing quite like them in the world - especially when compared to the blue light of a screen.