Dodging the Bullet: Traditional or Digital Textbooks?

Peter Zhang agonized over how to best get his textbooks, and, ultimately, he settled on paper

Peter Zhang agonized over how to best get his textbooks, and, ultimately, he settled on paper

By Peter Zhang, Contributing Writer

“Beep, Beep, Beep”, I quickly pressed snooze button without taking my eyes off the computer screen. I knew exactly what the message was — it was my class registration reminder, which I had set about a month before. “Click, Click, Click”, I immediately checked out my shopping cart filled with a biology course, a FYS class, a first-year writing class, a lab session, and an eight a.m. Chemistry class, which was a tough decision to make.. “Your shopping cart is empty” appeared, and I felt slightly relieved, like a real college student. But, that feeling only lasted a night before an email appeared in my inbox the next morning saying I had not registered for any class. Fortunately, it was sent in error.

I really wanted to keep up the momentum of a good start to the semester, which meant no taking chances by waiting to buy books. However, two roads diverged on the bookstore website. Do I go with traditional textbook or buy the digital textbook and read it off my iPad? I quickly checked the price for each version. A used tenth edition Campbell Biology book with good condition is about $50 on Amazon, and a PDF version of the same text costs around $12.

I selected the e-book without any second doubt, not because it was cheap, but that is the only way the book could get to me. I was not physically in the U.S.. I flew right back home to China after my high school graduation on June 8th. The e-book arrived around thirty minutes after the payment, and I started reading it off my 9.4 inches iPad.

After trying both digital and paper textbooks, Peter Zhang decided the more traditional paper option will work better for him

After trying both digital and paper textbooks, Peter Zhang decided the more traditional paper option will work better for him

I was quite liking it at the beginning; however, I found it very difficult to read when I needed to refer back to the early chapters. Also, the blue-light made my eyes dry much quicker than it had before. Meanwhile, I was also reading the Zumdahl Chemistry book, which I had from high school. It was a paper version that was firmly bound, and I liked the texture; also, it was very easy to flip pages back and forth when I needed to. Plus, some blog posts on the internet suggested brain memorizes paper books better than eBooks.

Therefore, I changed my mind and put all the traditional textbooks I need for the semester into my Amazon shopping cart, and I will buy them as soon as I land in the United States.

Editor’s Note: This article is the second in our series “Dodging the Bullet: The First Year Journal,” in which The Gettysburgian‘s staff members from the Class of 2021 share stories, reflections, and perspective on their first year experience. You can read the full series here. (BP)

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Author: Peter Zhang

Peter Zhang '21 intends to be a biochemistry major. Originally from China and a graduate of the Southwestern Academy in Los Angeles, you will find him in the library, in the lab, on the basketball court, or on a hiking trip. He wishes to join the Bullets basketball team.

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1 Comment

  1. wow. Nice article, Peter…. I am already excited to experience your feeling.

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