Virtually better

Our Position: LT should switch to online textbooks Staff Vote: 21-1

Staff Editorial

Every year, some textbooks sit on the bottom of students’ lockers, never to be touched after book pick-up. Yet, students and families pay up to $500, annually, for these textbooks to collect dust. To help the LT community financially, and to limit the school’s eco-footprint, LT should switch from hardcopy textbooks to online copies.

Disregarding textbook costs, back-to-school supplies and additional fees can burn a hole in a family’s pocket. With the additional stress of paying $300-500 for textbooks students may not even use, families, particularly low-income families, can feel financially overwhelmed. LT does provide textbook fee waivers for around 700 students to help limit the strain of back-to-school costs. However, what if there was a better way to help keep prices low for families and still financially benefit LT? 

Online textbooks have the capacity to do so. It has been proven by the Public School Review that online textbooks cost schools up to 53% less than hardcopies. This price reduction can allow LT to lower the textbook fee for families and allow LT to maintain its fee waiver program. Additionally, since all LT students have been provided with a personal Chromebook, the technology access barriers to online textbooks are alleviated.

Furthermore, textbooks are unsustainable. It is well-known that textbooks are paper products that require the exploitation of natural resources and deforestation. Also, when LT decides that certain textbooks are unusable due to age or quality concerns, these textbooks are recycled, or worse, find their way to a landfill. However, the environmental impact of textbooks goes beyond paper use and waste. The fuel and energy it takes to manufacture and distribute textbooks contribute to a growing global carbon footprint. Online textbooks allow LT to acquire a larger range of textbooks without increasing the school’s eco-footprint. 

While some may argue that online textbooks permit students to work on off-task activities or play games, this is a possibility whenever students utilize computers and it has not stopped computer usage for in-class work. There are programs in place such as GoGuardian that can monitor students’ activity and will ensure that all students are following instructions. The possibility of technological distractions should not outweigh the benefits and opportunities provided by online resources.

 Online textbooks make it easier for the school to provide updated versions of textbooks, allow students to annotate and dive deeper into their texts, and enable students to access all of their textbooks from anywhere at any time without the extra pounds of hardcopies.

Lastly, the current textbooks owned by the school can be repurposed in a few ways. LT could sell their textbooks to help pay for the purchase of online textbooks or donate the additional textbooks to underfunded local schools such as some in the CPS system. This ensures that even the transition from hardcopy textbooks to electronic copies is sustainable and gives back to the Chicago community. 

In conclusion, LT should consider replacing hardcopy textbooks with digital copies to save the school and families money, help limit LT’s environmental impact, and improve the quality of information and education provided by the current resources.