Viewpoint: Do your books have screen envy?

No matter what we do, there is almost always some sort of screen involved. Many jobs are computer-oriented. There are online classes and correspondence with professors through e-mail. If it weren’t for texting and social media sites, most of our social lives would be nonexistent. In fact, you could be reading this very article on The Signpost‘s website.

Earlier this year, the bookstore Borders filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closed more than 200 of their 511 locations. They are on the verge of closing their remaining stores across the United States. Not only does this mean 11,000 people will be out of a job — it also means that bookstores are on the decline.

The physical book is quickly becoming “old media” and being pushed aside for sleeker, newer e-readers. Instead of searching the shelves, buyers are browsing on sites to download the books they want to read. One more screen for our poor little eyeballs.

Another competing factor for bookstores is that there are many online sources that can compete with the bookstore prices. New and used books are sold for a discount of the retail value, which bookstores generally stick with.

Bookstores offer a unique experience for readers. Patrons have the chance to skim titles you’ve never seen before. Also, the newest books are out there that might not be offered at a public library, which handles older, abandoned books. Most importantly, readers have a break from staring at a screen. Nothing can replace the smell of the book, feeling the pages between your fingers and marking the spot where you left off.

The sad truth, though, is that the bookstore can’t stay afloat on sentimental notions alone. Online sources offer discounted books, and downloading a book is almost too convenient. The bookstore isn’t wholly done for, but it will have to find a new way to compete with alternate book sources.

So, what does this mean for students? As more mainstream literature becomes formatted for e-readers, so do textbooks. This will be one more option on where to purchase your textbooks for class, and one that could be lighter in your backpack and on your wallet. Most e-textbooks are significantly cheaper than the retail price. Soon it might be a wise student investment to fork over the $140 for a Kindle.

Renting and buying used textbooks are other routes that students have been taking advantage of. Our own campus bookstore has adopted these alternatives as well, so make sure to check those sources when finding your textbooks for fall semester. These sources, along with their buyback program, can help keep some money in your wallet (or maybe help you buy your parking pass!).

So, as a student, embrace all of the options you’re given. The cost of one new textbook could be comparable to buying an e-reader and downloading it. It could also open the door to a plethora of free books. Scour some websites before you buy new, and see if you can get a decent discount. Paying for tuition is enough of a strain, so take that extra time to search for the best deal.

And after you’re done, maybe you’ll feel the weight of a solid hard-bound book in your hands and read it for 20 minutes — or maybe you’ll just pick up a Kindle instead.