While innocently surfing the internet, the average student will inevitably run into advertisements encouraging them to buy – among other things – new books. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly in this digital age), these ads seem to be targeted towards their course and specifically towards their recommended textbooks.
The irony is that by using the same technology, students can access these books at a greatly discounted price – or even for free. Indeed, as a first year law student, two of my four core textbooks are available as part of the library’s e-book pilot, saving each student on my course about £60. However, having access to core text books online does more than just save money.
It is often argued that there are aspects of physical books that e-books can’t replace and traditional bookworms (me included) have been apprehensive about using a computer every time we need to get some work done. When we were kids, the computer and the TV were seen as a luxury, to be completely switched off during school days, so using a computer to prepare for seminars or take notes can still seem like a bit of a paradox.
However, as many cases and articles have become available online, the lengthy process of searching for them in books has become much faster, while it is easier to look up words or concepts one may not understand when working online.
As we have become used to this new way of studying we have learned that e-books can also add a new dimension to the act of reading (and can even be an improvement on print).
Having a book ‘floating about’ on the internet makes it possible to access it anywhere and at any time, a massive advantage when the alternative is to haul around a huge volume for the sake of the few pages you might need.
You can highlight or take notes on an e-book just as you can on a print copy – with the added bonus of mess-free erasing and editing. There are also some subject-specific applications that can be found only in the e-book version. One of our law textbooks, for example, comes with a ‘scenario simulator’ where you can apply the different concepts that you are reading about to real life situations.
While getting used to e-books may be challenging at first (not least having to contend with online distractions and ignore endless social network notifications!) it has definitely been worthwhile. From saving time and money to simulating the beauty of a real book in a much lighter form, e-books are growing in popularity – and may even be preferable to their paper counterparts.
Marina Iskander, first year law undergraduate