Print books or e-books? In the new normal education system, which one is more beneficial?

Published July 2, 2021, 1:07 PM

by John Legaspi

Is digital learning the beginning of the end for printed textbooks?

Photo from Rex Education

In our pre-pandemic times, studying for many Filipino youth involved getting their noses buried inside the pages of a book. Those bounded pieces of paper have been the sword and shield of many students through the years, and these have given parents assurances that their kids are being fed with the right knowledge.

But as the entire planet went to a COVID-19 shift, so did our way of learning. Virtual education paved the way for many to continue learning while the battle against the virus raged on. New materials are introduced in the digital learning system, making e-books among the new sources for knowledge. While the internet has been a dependable partner for students even during the days prior to the pandemic, the question many ask is: Is digital learning the beginning of the end for printed textbooks?

For learning materials provider Rex Education, giving students more available learning resources in a safe manner is a must these days. That’s why it has expanded its offerings of printed textbooks with e-book versions and various digital complimentary learning and assessment materials. Its goal is not to replace printed books, but to create more options suitable for the varying needs and circumstances of the Filipino Whole Learners that it serves.

The pros and cons of e-books

As digital natives, students now are more at ease with e-books. One of their benefits is their portability. One device can hold a library of books without weighing more than one encyclopedia.

While it is becoming the best option in today’s setup, e-books also have their own set of limitations and weaknesses. The biggest of which are digital fatigue and distraction. With more time exposed to digital devices, learning these days have become quite unhealthy.

“The amount of screen time for elementary students aged six to 12 should only be up to 90 minutes a day. For secondary school students aged 13 to 17, the recommended screen time should not be more than two hours per day,” say Rex Education. “That recommended number is easily surpassed when classes are held online and assignments require online research, and the learning materials they have access to are digital as well. The additional exposure to screen time definitely increases the students’ susceptibility to screen fatigue, which may lead to blurred vision, redness, dryness, and irritation.”

Apart from the prolonged screen time, devices such as tablets and laptops also hold more distraction to students with the help of entertainment and gaming apps, and other digital sites.

“People who read e-books tend to get sidetracked more easily, but not just because the internet is right at their fingertips,” Rex Education states. “Digital readers tend to spend more time scanning for keywords than actually processing what they’re reading. It’s easy to get distracted by links and get sucked into an internet rabbit hole of irrelevant—and sometimes, dangerous—content on the web.”

The value of printed textbooks

For decades, print books have been the top choice as learning material due to it being less strenuous on the eyes and providing a more tangible experience for the reader. And when it comes to the retention ability and learning experience between e-books and printed books, printed books have been found to reign supreme.

A study led by Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University shows that readers of print books were found to absorb and remember more of the material that they were reading compared to e-book or Kindle readers. This makes students who have books at home also more likely to score higher on tests.

“In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,” Mangen tells to The Guardian.

Researchers believe this is because having books at home encourages children to read for fun and talk to their parents about what they’ve learned, which only stands to benefit them in class.

“Compared to e-books, printed books present not distraction, but imagination,” the learning materials provider says. “Books provide gateways to unlocking the capabilities of the brain, encouraging the learner to put the things they learn together, therefore enabling better learning retention. While books continue to be found better for a student’s learning experience, the pandemic has made it challenging for students and parents to purchase print books. Required textbook sets were bulky, needed to be traveled, and required a significant amount of storage in the home.”

The new normal of learning materials

To balance the strengths and weaknesses of both printed and digital books, Rex Education has made it its responsibility to offer as many options as it can to match the varying needs of the students—both printed and digital.

“As schools implement different models of distance learning, it is important for us to be more inclusive and flexible in providing access to quality and relevant learning materials. Since schools may be serving students with different setups at home or even from different locations, providing the option of both digital and printed books makes it easier for students to choose which learning material suits their needs,” says Don Timothy Buhain, chief executive officer of Rex Education. “Rex Education believes that quality education should be accessible to every Filipino Whole Learner—and that is what we always strive to achieve in every printed and digital book that we create.”

To date, the learning materials provider has made available a wide suite of printed books and e-books on its digital bookstore to make quality education more accessible to all. Parents, educators, and students can now conveniently browse and shop its huge lineup of learning solutions in print or digital format through

“Technology will never replace good parenting and good teachers. So when you read to your child—regardless of whether it’s a traditional or electronic book—keep the conversation lively. Talk about what he sees on the page. Ask what he thinks will happen next. Because as researchers and educators all agree, the most important app, especially for little kids, is real human support,” it ends.