eBook VS Physical Book Debate – What do you think?



On Thursday the 15th of January 2015 as part of the Learning Commons promotion week the Devonport Union hosted a debate the motion being “This house would have the school emphasise eBooks and online resources over traditional resources.”

The debate had a great turnout and a good range of year groups in attendance. The first point to be raised was about the emotional attachment that is felt from holding and retaining a physical book. Some felt that they could get more from a physical book because it felt more personal, you can fold the pages, mark the pages and make notes on it. Equally many students prefer the way that you can highlight, immediately look up word definitions and search the book for key words.

It was then raised that some research has been done on the media from which we read from which suggests students retain more information when reading from physical books to eBooks. I have looked up this research and it is an interesting study (Read more here). It concludes “This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for e-text books or computerised courseware, however. Neither Nielsen nor Garland is opposed to using new media for teaching. In fact, both believe that there are many situations in which they can offer real advantages. However, different media have different strengths — and it may be that physical books are best when you want to study complex ideas and concepts that you wish to integrate deeply into your memory.” I am sure a lot more research will be done in this area and hopefully some people will do some research to try and find more of the positives that come from eBooks and study different ranges of students.

Several students felt that it may be a generation thing. Younger generations feel more comfortable using digital resources because it is what they are used to using vs older generations are used to paper therefore that is maybe why information might not be retained as well.

Discussions then went on to the topic of costs many students believe eBooks offer great financial benefits with services such as Amazon Kindle offering thousands of eBooks for free. This was counter argued by Local Authority libraries also being free but with government budget restraints many libraries are now closing and the point was raised as to whether the government could provide an eBook service.

There was also a good staff turnout at the debate and from a member of staff some great points were raised in favour of eBooks. Firstly saying you can annotate on a eBook but you cannot on a school textbook. Also eBooks can be updated easily without the need to throw away and buy new books which has high costs and high impacts on the environment. There are also other benefits that eBooks can offer to people with disabilities such as the book being read out or text being enlarged for visually impaired students.

The general consensus was that eReaders such as the Kindle (not Kindle Fire) was a good replacement but devices such as iPads did not make good eReader devices due to backlit screens causing eye strains, too many distractions and poor battery life (a physical book never runs out of battery).

The debate concluded with 14 to 15 in favour of eBooks vs Physical books. So where next…

Ben Forte @ben40forte

Director of Learning Commons


9 thoughts on “eBook VS Physical Book Debate – What do you think?”

  1. This looks like a really interesting topic. Having worked with Ben Forte at Churston Ferrers Grammar School I’m sure that it will be v informative. Ben was instrumental in the increased use of mobile technology whilst at Churston and I have been persuaded by observing students at first hand embracing change. Good look with the debate!

    1. Thank you for your comment Martin, yes it is proving to be an interesting debate and I am sure it will continue. Ben is a great ambassador for this particular project and I am sure there is an exciting journey ahead.

  2. This is a really interesting debate, but perhaps more important than how students read, is that they do read. The school library in any guise needs to promote a reading culture and support students to read in the format they’re comfortable with. Far from being on the decline the public library service In Plymouth offers a huge range of physical books, Ebooks, downloadable magazines and online resources – all for free with your library card. Use it or lose it people!

    1. Hi Amanda,

      I agree getting young people reading more is at the heart of this whole discussion. If eBooks will engage more people in reading then they should be promoted.
      We will definitely be promoting Plymouth Library to our students!

  3. Interesting debate. Without having physical books to provide the students in the classroom, I don’t think they would use them for their Controlled Assessment research. They need to quote 5 views/opinions of historians. I believe some schools provide them with a bank of comments but i like them to find their own. (Proper research) I think they would stick to wiki and quote banks. I’d be interested to know what they think.

    1. Hi Pam,
      There are many online resources, eBooks and even online journals that may be really useful for research in controlled assessment.
      Everyone says bad things about Wikipedia but I think it is an amazing source of information, I agree it shouldn’t be used as a single source but should anything?
      I think the days of Wikipedia being unreliable are fading, have you ever tried to edit something? It is actually quite hard, there are often many levels of moderators to get through before your edit is accepted. What do people think to giving Wiki more of a chance?

  4. The National Literacy Trust are currently running a very interesting and large scale research study into the impact of ebooks on students’ reading habits, attitudes to reading and reading attainment. Although this study has started already, schools are very welcome to join the study during the rest of this term. It concludes at the end of the summer term with the study being published in October 2015. You can sign-up here: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/research/take_part_in_our_surveys/impact_of_ebooks

    1. We did sign up to take part in this research project but we didn’t feel there were enough books that our boys wanted to read on the platform in order to make the study achieve its full potential.
      Hopefully new books are being added all the time!

  5. Indeed, the catalogue is doubling every 9-12 months as we continue to sign-up new publishers. You’ll notice some large fiction publishers on there now (with one extremely large one being added next month), as well as the popular reluctant reader specialists and textbook publishers.

    In terms of finding the right ebooks for your boys, you can combine keyword search, the reading age (or Accelerated Reader™ book level) and interest age left hand filters to find hi-low and low-hi books that provide age-appropriate books at the right level.

    A popular mode of use with other schools is to allow students to choose their own books using these filters then submit a book request through the platform. You can grant those requests as they come through on short-term individual rentals (or put copies into the school elibrary).

    The act of choosing the book seems to result in them sticking with it.

    That very simple use of RM Books is the way Manchester Academy achieved their excellent improvement in FSM students’ reading, below. It also means you don’t need to second guess what will be popular before you start, or to spend much to get going.

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