by Garrett Koontz, staff writer

“All of my books are online this semester,” says student Austin Ortyz.

“[My classes] switched over to online books only,” says student Josiah Walker.

Ortyz and Walker haven’t had to carry around a single textbook this year.

They aren’t alone. PPSC joins colleges across the nation that are progressing to increasingly digital textbook systems. 72% of students surveyed nationwide by the National Association of Collegiate Stores (NACS) had been assigned materials—digital books, instructor printouts—that they weren’t required to pay for, including those developed by instructors using the Open Educational Resource (OER) system.

Digital textbooks and OER materials don’t suffer from the same supply issues that traditional print textbooks do. They can be accessed on just about any device. They’re easier to update. They don’t weigh anything. They’re cheaper.

That doesn’t mean they’re popular.

“I prefer physical. I find it easier [with my] ADHD,” says psychology student Erin Wilson, who finds digital textbooks difficult to navigate. Student Bridget Lopez agrees: “Regular books… help me keep track better,” she says.

It’s not just our students—over 62% of students surveyed by DirectTextbook, a national textbook database, still prefer physical textbooks—citing eye strain, internet access and navigation as the biggest issues, but the number is declining, down from 72% in 2015.

It’s an ongoing process, a push-and-pull between students, publishers and schools. But Joel Bagley, PPSC’s Auxiliary Services Manager, doesn’t see that as a bad thing. “OER is a natural outcome to increased prices and publisher forces… It should be a force to create innovation and cost savings for students,” he says.

As back pain from carrying books gives way to eye strain from staring at the computer, students have more access to more materials than ever before.

Stack of textbooks

Photo credit | Garrett Koontz