The Pros and Cons of Digital Textbooks vs. Traditional Textbooks

Textbooks are a primary source of the knowledge students gain on their journey through higher education. Every student will read textbooks during their college experience. Although at times they seem monotonous, they hold the keys to knowledge, leading to success in the future. So, making the learning process as simple and as enjoyable as possible is crucial, and finding the right kind of textbook is the first step. Whether it’s a digital textbook or a traditional textbook, discover what’s ideal for your learning style. Before deciding, however, you must understand the pros and cons of both digital and traditional textbooks.

Digital Textbooks: Pros

Convenient— Leave heavy backpacks and chaotic desks behind with the convenience of digital textbooks. These textbooks allow students to read from their phones or laptops, which provides a convenient way to keep track of work. College students are rarely without a digital device, so digital textbooks are also never lost or forgotten. This is a great option for students who have a hectic lifestyle.

Cheaper— Digital textbooks are generally cheaper than traditional textbooks, often sold at half the cost of a physical copy. Lower prices can help you save a significant amount of money over the course of four years.

Digital Textbooks: Cons

Electronic Reliance—Electronics are unreliable. It’s common to have an electronic device fail or discover that the battery has died. Both problems are inconvenient, especially when options to repair the device are limited or you forget your charger. Furthermore, if an internet connection is needed, the locations available to study may be limited.

Distractions— Digital textbooks also contain more distractions. Notifications can pop up on the screen while you’re reading, leading to distractions that can last for hours at a time. With traditional textbooks, however, you have the option to put all screens aside and focus on the work at hand.

Reselling— Digital textbooks are permanent purchases. This permanency eliminates the option to earn money back through reselling the book. The inability to resell is the main disadvantage of buying digital textbooks.

Traditional Textbooks: Pros

Take Anywhere— The availability of chargers or an internet connection has no bearing on traditional textbooks. They give students the freedom to study anywhere at any time. If you prefer studying outside or in more remote locations, an option independent from electronics is best. The flexibility maintained by traditional textbooks makes them a simple and stress-free option.

Highlighting and Notes— Traditional textbooks also give you the freedom to highlight and make notes as you read. For many students, the process of retaining information is accomplished through actively taking notes. Traditional textbooks may be the best option for students who thrive in active learning.  

Resell— Generally, students use their textbooks for homework assignments and never look at them again. With this in mind, you might ask yourself: Why should I buy traditional textbooks when it’s cheaper to rent or buy digitally? Buying traditional textbooks allows you to resell them in the future. In the end, you might regain some or all the money you spent. The opportunity to resell is arguably the most significant pro involved in buying traditional textbooks.

Traditional Textbooks: Cons

Expensive— Traditional textbooks are more expensive than digital textbooks. The discount on digital textbooks is close to fifty percent for most books. Buying traditional textbooks, however, does provide the opportunity to resell and earn money back. Traditional textbooks are an investment.

Inconvenient— Traditional textbooks can be inconvenient. Some textbooks weigh as much as six pounds, making them difficult to transport. They’re also easy to forget. The feeling of frustration is unmatched when you reach your destination only to discover you forgot a textbook that is essential for completing a project.


Finding the right kind of textbook can make your life significantly less stressful. If you don’t know which option is best, that’s okay. You will have countless opportunities to buy textbooks throughout your college career. The only way to make an informed decision is to gain experience. Try both options and find what works best for you.

Find the textbooks you need for your next class at Maranatha here