OPINION: Online textbooks should be an option for students


A laptop on top of school textbooks. Photo by Ofelia Mattingly.

Ofelia Mattingly

With JCPS starting the year off doing NTI, one issue for schools was getting students their physical textbooks required for classes. Manual students were to drive to school, open their car’s trunk, and wait for a school administrator to put their textbook(s) in the trunk. This tedious act alone opens up questions about the use of physical textbooks while there are virtual options available.

 It is better to have access to online textbooks because it is easier and more convenient for students, and safer, especially in the middle of a pandemic. 

Schools should have online textbooks be available for students who are able to access and purchase them. Schools already have parents pay class fees, which includes textbooks that the class may need, so they should also be able to pay for online textbooks. 

Some class assignments require taking notes from the textbooks. With in-hand textbooks, students have to write a summary and rewrite sentences from the pages they need. This method can be tedious for students to do. Some students may not like the idea of looking at a computer screen reading a chapter for class, but with online textbooks, students can also print out the textbook pages they actually need and write notes, highlight important information and topics, and annotate. This method would be easier for students to complete; they wouldn’t have to keep on opening the textbook and finding the page they need, but instead, they could just have the page(s) in-hand already. 

There are numerous students who dislike receiving textbooks from school, especially when they have to receive multiple, big books. 

“I would prefer the digital textbook over the textbooks I have now,” Kansas Perry (11, HSU) said. “I have to go back and forth between my parents’ house on the weekend and having to constantly carry it back and forth is kind of unnecessary, our textbooks should be online so we don’t have to worry about returning the books.”

“I dislike receiving textbooks because we can obtain all the information that the textbooks have virtually,” Leah Stewart (11, YPAS) said.

“I dislike them [textbooks] because they make my backpack heavy,” Elijah Reed (12, YPAS) said.

“I feel that the accessibility would be vastly appreciated considering that with people out and about, carrying textbooks and keeping maintenance can be a pain at times if you need to get homework done,” Rafael Mediodia (11, VA) said.

“I typically only use them if a teacher assigns something from it,” Reed said. “And they are really heavy and take up a lot of space.”

There is also a financial component involved in this. Many schools continually have to buy more textbooks for students because they are either old or destroyed. According to News Tribune, the average cost of high school textbooks is $70 for over a thousand high school students. High schools would have to pay that amount for new textbooks for students. With online textbooks, schools wouldn’t have a need to keep on buying more textbooks; they would be saving money in the long run. For students, they wouldn’t have to worry about making their parents pay for another textbook because it would be available online.

“Textbooks are already prone to damage over time, and who knows what might happen to one given bad circumstances. Online textbooks provide easy access and seem cheaper in the long run,” Mediodia said.

Additionally, there may be grammatical errors or incorrect information in the textbooks. With in-hand textbooks, this problem would require re-doing the textbook pages and reprinting the books. As we know, information is constantly changing and the textbooks would need to be updated. This wouldn’t be easy to do with in-hand textbooks, but it would be fairly simple with online textbooks.

However, some students still deserve the option of physical books, whether that be a lack of access to technology or just simply preferring them more.

“I like textbooks simply because I’m a tactile person; I like being able to hold the book that I’m reading,” Guinnevere Lane (11, J&C) said.

But while physical textbooks should stay an option, Manual should invest in digital textbooks as a legitimate and beneficial option for students.