As digital education continues to grow and change the higher education landscape, the ever-growing debates surrounding various electronic improvements do as well. So how do modern, sleek, and interactive digital textbooks compare to the standard paper versions? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this traditional vs. digital debate.


  • Digital textbooks allow for interactive learning: Aside from the ability to link directly to streaming videos or unique source material, certain companies offer interactive diagrams, quizzes, educational movies, and more
  • While flipping through pages and pages of material to look up questions takes a lot of time, digital textbooks make it easy by allowing readers to search with the simple click of a button
  • Have updated material? New sources? Current studies to describe? Digital textbooks allow for instantaneous updating—not more money and paper spent on buying an entirely new print edition
  • Technology now exists for tracking students’ progress via analytics: Faculty can identify where students are struggling or failing to be engaged. By adjusting what’s taught in class based on these findings, professors can help improve class participation, interactions, and overall student success


  • Students have yet to fully take to digital textbooks, citing email distractions, temptations to surf the web, and a lack of ability to concentrate as reasons for preferring paper textbooks
  • While digital textbooks offer ways to e-highlight choice sections, students still prefer their colored pens and the ability to write directly on paper since technology still lacks seamless control
  • Paper textbooks are hard to steal, whereas digital textbook piracy is a growing concern. While 10% of college students admit to acquiring their course materials without paying, 30%-40% of those students also say they know someone who has pirated materials. The conclusion? Digital textbook piracy is an ever-growing threat
  • Electronic reading platforms interfere with intuitive navigation of text, making it difficult to know what’s important or to really map any one passage in the context of the entire text

We all know that paper textbooks are bulky and often more expensive than digital textbooks. But surprisingly, in this digital age we have yet to see a universal acceptance of electronic learning. Though the numbers of digital textbooks users grow steadily each year, an affordable textbook delivery system that satisfies everyone has yet to be created.