The Advantage of Tablets Over Textbooks

tablets vs. textbooks

Textbook publishing and tablets are both multi-billion-dollar industries in the United States. Today, tablets are used by more than half of American adults and the majority of American children between the ages of 8 and 17. As the popularity of tablets increases, many schools are debating whether to make the switch from textbooks to tablets, along with introducing One-to-One programs (one device per student use) into their districts.

Tablets offer several benefits over textbooks, but should tablets replace textbooks altogether? Many educators and students believe the answer is yes.

What Are 1:1 Programs?

A 1:1 program enables every student to have a tablet. Many districts are seeing the opportunities that tablets can offer their students, and want to begin implementing 1:1 programs for different grade levels.

These programs are about more than using tablets in schools. In several of these programs, students are able to take home the tablets. Meanwhile, other 1:1 programs also provide students with high-speed Internet in school and possibly even at home.

Knowing how many of their students will be able to use their tablets at home is an important consideration for many schools. Many low-income families are unable to provide their children with tablets or purchase Wi-Fi for their homes, so some schools with 1:1 programs are working to offer solutions for families unable to afford this technology.


If a school district has not yet implemented a 1:1 program for students, but is considering one, administrators and educators should consider possible obstacles, such as Wi-Fi access — especially if these tablets will be used outside of the classroom.

History of Tablets vs. Textbooks

More and more, Americans are using their mobile devices to access the Internet, rather than laptops or desktop computers. In 2017, more than a hundred million tablets were shipped across the world. The increased saturation of tablet usage is seeping into education, with predictions that the mobile education market could become a multi-billion-dollar industry across the globe within a few years.

Every year, the number of e-book readers increases. In 2011, Amazon announced that e-books were outselling print books. In 2017, Amazon saw a download rate of more than a million e-books a day.
The digital book market boom is not limited to fiction. More than a thousand publishers for grades K-12 and higher education offer digital textbooks. Publishers have quickly jumped on the bandwagon of digital books because they know many consumers enjoy the convenience of e-books, especially when it comes to large, heavy textbooks that can be burdensome to carry.
For years, the U.S. Department of Education has been investigating avenues for schools to pursue learning through technology. In 2010, the National Education Technology Plan recommended leveraging students' mobile devices in the classroom, utilizing the technology that students already had.
In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission launched the ConnectEd program under the direction of President Obama. This program aimed to provide schools and libraries with access to high-speed Internet for improved digital learning. Additionally, in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act established annual grants for schools to support digital learning. The grant money can be used to educate teachers about digital technology, to provide students in under-served communities with helpful resources, and to provide funding for projects that are taught partially in the classroom and partially online.
Now that high-speed broadband connectivity access in K-12 school districts has increased significantly in recent years, up now to 99%, the debate about tablets vs. textbooks in the classroom has grown. Though many educators and administrators cite the cost as their primary reason for not including tablets in class, K-12 schools spend nearly twice as much on printed materials than digital materials per year.
As technology becomes more integrated into the classroom environment, many educators believe paper textbooks will become obsolete within the next decade in favor of digital textbooks.

Advantages of Tablets

Many teachers and students are proponents of tablets in the classroom. In fact, some believe that tablets should be replacing textbooks entirely. So, why are tablets better than textbooks? 

Tablets Are Convenient and Light Weight

tablets are convenient

One of the most significant benefits of tablets in education is convenience. Rather than carrying around several heavy textbooks, students can carry all of their digital textbooks in one lightweight device.
Tablets only weigh a few pounds, while print textbooks are so heavy, they can cause injuries to students. On average, students carry more than 15% of their body weight in their backpack, which can result in injuries, swelling and fatigue.  Nearly 8,000 children, aged 5 to 18, had to be treated for backpack-related injuries in 2017. Increased use of tablets instead of print textbooks could help make students' backpacks lighter.
Tablets can also hold a student's homework, quizzes and other files. This will help students stay organized, as they will not have to keep track of multiple papers, notebooks or folders. School districts and educators can also save money by eliminating the need for these additional classroom materials.
Teachers can also easily download items from one tablet to another, making the transference of files a quick, simple task. Files and digital textbooks can be stored on a server that teachers can access from other devices.

Digital Textbooks Cost Less and Can Be Instantly Updated

Although many opponents of tablets cite the cost as their primary reason for opposition, digital textbooks are less expensive than print textbooks. While a K-12 paper textbook costs an average of $70, a digital textbook subscription costs an average of only $45 to $55 for six years. Prices are also dropping for both digital textbooks and tablets, making them more affordable and accessible for consumers.

Unlike print textbooks, digital textbooks can be updated instantly with new information. With print textbooks, schools have to regularly purchase new editions, software and hardware, whereas tablets eliminate the need for schools to purchase new material constantly. With educational tablets for schools, students will no longer have to learn from old, outdated textbooks, which is especially important for areas of study that frequently change, such as computer science.

Reduce Waste with Tablets

Imagine if schools could completely eliminate the need for paper assignments and handouts?  The massive consumption of paper in schools hurts the environment, and it's a financial burden on school districts. Schools spend a significant amount of money on paper, toner and ink each month, and if you include the expense of printers and technical support, the costs are even higher.

Tablets Offer Technological Features

Another benefit of using tablets in education is the abundance of technological features, which don't exist in print textbooks. Textbooks are limited in what they can provide students beyond words and images on a page, while tablets provide users with the ability to write notes and highlight without ruining the textbook for the next student.
On a tablet, students can search a book or document for certain words or utilize a backlight for reading in dim lighting. Tablets also offer a built-in dictionary, so students can conveniently look up words they don't know without having to navigate away from the textbook.
Tablets also include videos and interactive diagrams that can increase a student's attentiveness, motivation, creativity and engagement with educational materials.

Advantages for Teachers

customizing students lessons

Many K-12 teachers believe that tablets can enrich the education of their students within the classroom and make their students more motivated to learn. Tablets are more fun for students than textbooks, and by extension, learning becomes more fun. Teachers can customize student learning by easily adapting lessons to a student's learning style.


Advantages for Students


One of the pros of using tablets in the classroom is that students may be able to learn faster. Instruction that is technology-based can reduce the amount of time it takes students to reach new learning objectives by as much as 80%.  They also tend to read more books when provided electronically.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a textbook publisher, provided a digital, interactive Algebra 1 textbook to a California school district to test how students scored after learning with a digital textbook versus how students scored after learning with traditional print textbooks. The results showed that of the students who used the digital version of the textbook, 78% scored proficient or advanced on California state tests, while just 59% of the students who only used the traditional textbook scored proficient or advanced. By using a digital version of the same
Technology use is increasing worldwide, and introducing students to it early in their development will prepare them to work with technology in their future careers. Many of the highest-paying jobs and fastest-growing fields in America are technology-based. Students who are proficient in technology will enjoy better job opportunities in the future.

Are Textbooks Obsolete? 

While the trend towards tablets in the classroom and one-to-one programs continue to rise, proponents of textbooks claim tablets are distracting for students, easy to break, and expensive to fix.   Though the list of reasons why tablets should be used in schools is lengthy, not everyone will be easily convinced that print textbooks should be replaced entirely.

Protect Tablets With Higher Ground Tablet Cases

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Educational electronics are an investment in students' learning. To preserve that investment for future classes, protect the devices with functional and stylish cases designed for the exceptional stresses of the education field.  For nearly 20 years, Higher Ground Gear has designed innovative case and sleeve protection technology and that are rugged, fashionable and affordable.  Find out why it's time to Move to Higher Ground. 

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Mark Zadvinskis
Mark Zadvinskis


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