Textbooks: Print or Digital?

Many people remember lugging heavy textbooks back and forth to school, requiring industrial strength backpacks or, in some cases, rolling suitcases usually reserved for the executive on the go.  There has even been public concern and discussion about the weight of backpacks filled with textbooks and the effect it’s having on school kids’ spines and posture.

Now along comes the new digital reader, able to download enough textbooks and reading assignments to last a middle school student until graduation and weighing no more than the actual unit itself.  For many, this is the next logical step in the evolution of education – trading in traditional textbooks and giving students access to virtually limitless learning material on e-Readers.

Others, however, have suggested possible downsides to this shift, like the impact it will have on our environment.

replace books with ereaders

At first glance, using digital readers instead of textbooks and saving trees from the paper mill sounds like a great idea, but there are environmental impacts associated with new the technology as well.

A 2010 article by Chris Meadows on teleread.com brings up some interesting talking points from studies on the environmental impact of both types of books.

The estimated carbon “footprint” from digital readers is less than that of textbooks when considering the carbon dioxide released in the production and distribution of printed materials. However, electronic materials can be seen as toxic in terms of manufacturing and disposal.

These toxic electrical components are filling up our landfills at an alarming rate, depositing hazardous chemicals like mercury, lead, cadmium and even arsenic into the soil.

The question of whether going digital is the best answer in terms of the environment is one that requires further analysis. To do your homework on this increasingly relevant topic, check out these websites:




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