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Digital Media Slashes The Carbon Footprint Of Textbooks

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Climate change is a growing concern. Some experts from NASA are already wondering if it is too late. We need to take all measures that we can. Fortunately, small steps, like using digital books can make a big difference.

Digital media is playing a very important role in the fight against climate change. One of the reasons is that digital technology is helping eliminate the need for traditional textbooks. The benefits for the environment are two-fold:

  • Companies don’t have to cut down trees to produce them.
  • They don’t have to go through a massive paper milling process that leaves a huge carbon footprint.

The blog Sustainability for All wrote an article addressing some of the implications of digital books for the sustainability movement. They pointed out that the carbon footprint of a single regular book is between 250 g and 1 kg, which is much higher than an ebook.

However, digital textbooks don’t solve all problems. One issue that they are not fixing is cost. Here are some questions that you might have in mind. One of the biggest issues is that traditional textbooks are still necessary, which doesn’t help the environment or the crippling costs of textbooks.

1. Why Do Professors Require Textbooks?

You may wonder why professors require these books at all in this digital era. The answers they give vary. In some cases, the books required for the course are unavailable in digital forms, so the professors do not have a choice.

If you need certain books for the course, you will have to get hard copies. In other cases, the books may have activities in them that the digital versions do not. You may encounter a situation where you need to buy a physical book that has accompanying activities online. Another major problem with digital books is that they can entice students into straying from the lessons in the course. When students are on their phones or laptops claiming to access digital books, they are often playing on the internet.

2. Why Should I Have to Buy Books?

You may wonder why your schools cannot provide books for you. The simple answer is that you are choosing to attend college. Legislation is not forcing you to attend college. When you opt to enroll in courses, you are responsible for procuring the materials that come along with those classes. While it is certainly acceptable to try to find ways to reduce the prices of books, you also must understand that electing to attend college comes with responsibilities.

3. Can’t Professors Change Their Required Books?

As you’re looking at the list of books that you need to purchase and the prices that come along with these books, you may wonder why the professors do not simply change the required materials to less expensive ones. When you are required to buy materials for a course, keep in mind that the requests could come from multiple places, including the following:

  • the professor
  • the department
  • the school
  • the university

In some cases, professors do choose their own books for their classes. In other cases, however, the requirements come from the specific department or school or the university itself. While you may want to email the professors and ask for less expensive materials, remember that the requests may not even have come from them in the first place.

4. Why Do Professors Care If I Surf the Internet or Text?

As you’re beginning to better understand where the requests for books come from, you might wonder more about the reasons why professors don’t switch to digital versions. In other words, you may know that you’ll likely send a text message or go on social media during your classes, but you wonder why your professors would care. After all, it’s your money paying the tuition. The answer is that texting or going on social media during class is rude. You are paying to attend the class, and it is the professor’s job to teacher the class. You have both accepted roles as teachers and students, and your professors take their jobs seriously. If they allowed you to roam freely on the internet during class, they would be suggesting to the rest of the students that the class isn’t serious.

5. Why Are Prices High?

The rising popularity of digital books is one reason why the cost of traditional books might be so high. The companies printing these books need to compete with digital media, so the prices need to be high in order to keep the businesses open. Also, keep in mind that printing books costs money regardless of whether digital competition exists or not. Book publishers are not necessarily in a conspiracy to charge you higher prices; their businesses may simply demand that they do.

6. How Can I Afford My Books?

As you’re beginning to understand where the high prices come from and why books are necessary, you also likely want to know how to reduce your costs. Going to the campus bookstore is probably the best way to pay the most for your books, so don’t stop there first. Instead, you can rent textbooks. Renting textbooks typically comes at a lower cost than buying them. When you turn to the internet to purchase your books, you can find options that will help you to keep money in your pocket. If you choose to rent textbooks, make sure to learn what condition you need to return them in.

7. When Should I Buy My Books?

In this digital era, you are probably going to have access to the syllabus for each class online before the semester begins. Also, bookstores typically have book lists, and you can find out what books to buy through that method. You don’t necessarily have to purchase the books there. Some students access this information and still wait until classes start to purchase their materials. You may need to complete readings within the first couple of days of the semester, so you must make sure to get in your materials.

Digital access to books is certainly popular. However, some situations may require you to purchase traditional books; now, you know the necessary information to move forward without breaking your budget.

Digital Textbooks Might Be Great for the Environment, But Textbook Costs Concerns Remain

You have probably noticed that the cost of textbooks is not going down anytime soon. Sadly, the growing number of online books has not solved the problem. At least digital textbooks are lowering our carbon footprint, though!


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