Should online textbooks be our future?


Gabby McMurry (11) studies with an online textbook while Ciara Gallagher (11) uses a physical book.

Textbooks used to be a thing in the real world, a thing you could touch, hold, or throw. Students back in the day had to carry around a heavy textbook from class to class.  Now, however, many textbooks are online. Four out of five math classes have switched to textbooks online and only three out of five other classes have also switched to textbooks online.

Most, if not all, textbooks are online today. Teachers hand out a link to the online textbook in the beginning of the year then give homework assignments throughout the year using the online textbook. There are a lot of pros to having textbooks online. They’re much easier to give to students.Teachers can just copy and paste the link in google classroom so their students can have an easier time accessing the textbook online. 

“Textbooks online are much better for the environment than physical textbooks because that’s less paper being produced and used from trees,” said Mary Becker (12). 

Even though there are many pros to having online textbooks, there are also some cons. Because they are online, usually on a computer, staring at the screen for long periods of time can strain and damage the eyes.

“Staring at a screen for too long can cause eye strain, headaches, and fatigue,” said Dr. Tom Altenbernd, an eye doctor in Oakville. “You should look away from the screen and have a break every 20-30 minutes, but kids nowadays don’t do that.” 

Regular textbooks don’t have a glare while textbooks online have excess glare. Dr. Altenbernd would highly suggest a physical textbook rather than a textbook online.

“From a visual standpoint, a normal textbook would be best.” said Dr. Altenbernd.

Dr. Altenbernd is not wrong about the symptoms of staring at a screen for too long. Many students have experienced headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms. 

“It can strain my eyes after doing homework for more than an hour,” Andrew Blanchette (10) said. “It also gives me headaches sometimes if I go too long.” 

While it may be simpler to have textbooks be online, is the cost too high? Without textbooks online, yes, you would have to carry them around, but you won’t damage your eyes and have headaches so often while doing homework. Switching back to regular textbooks would be best for everyone. The eye strain and headaches would decrease dramatically while doing homework. There is the problem that if the internet were to go down then no one would be able to do any of their homework because it is all online. That wouldn’t be the case if we had regular, physical textbooks. 

However, we cannot just jump back into regular textbooks because that would cost too much money and is just not reasonable. I propose that we gradually make the shift back towards the paper textbook. We can start with only a couple of classes and slowly switch classes to paper textbooks every year or even every other year.