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Discarding Paper for Pixels: Why University and Digital Media Go Hand in Hand

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Now that you've achieved the results you were so desiring and toasted your success with a (fair) few drinks, you can begin to look forward to all that your university course has to offer. Whether you'll be eagerly awaiting the release of your course's pre-reading list depends entirely on your personal mentality; however, the rise of digital media makes cramming for lectures, tutorials and exams easier than ever before.

Back in 2010 Amazon confirmed that, for the first time ever, digital eBooks were outselling hardbacks. The rise of the eBook has been meteoric, and technology companies have been scampering to produce devices that replace the eloquence of the written word with a far more practical alternative. The digital reader market has been inundated with the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, the Playbook and the Reader to name but a fraction of the options available to incoming university students. The options are plentiful and the benefits are beyond uncertain, they are incorrigible!

According to a study by the Publisher's Association, the primary representative for all book publishers in the UK, the eBook market accounted for sales of up to £150 million in the UK in 2010. The last published accounts (2009) note that the UK book market is worth up to £3.4 billion in its entirety. Given these figures, the eBook market in the UK only accounts for roughly 4.4% of the total market.

However, whilst the market is relatively small, the Publisher's Association noted that 80% of the UK eBook market concerns academic and professional texts, which is very good news for students. What then are the benefits to students of discarding paper for pixels? First reason: academic texts are expensive! Students across all courses will feel the pinch as they shell out for texts that are indispensable for their modules, prompting many to go cap in hand to the Bank of Mum & Dad. Those students studying Law, Engineering, Medicine and a variety of other scientific subjects are often the hardest hit, with those vital weighty tombs costing anything from £30 up to £100. Whilst owning all these books may make you feel undoubtedly brainy, the sheer cost of purchasing books only to discard them once the module ends is often a false economy.

EBooks however, offer a refuge from these soaring prices. Whilst certain eBook prices sometimes do not vary largely from the RRP of their paperback equivalents, there are undoubtedly bargains to be had. Perusing Apple's iBooks app and the Kindle Store will draw your attention to the volume of texts that are available for absolutely free. A large number of texts are what the publishers call "Classics". For instance, texts such as Politics by Aristotle, The Illiad by Homer and over 4,000 other texts are all available for free and can be instantly downloaded to your device. Moreover, Amazon recently launched its textbook rental service, allowing students to rent books for between 30 to 60 days at a price claimed to be an 80% reduction on the RRP.

EBooks also help you avoid the ferocious battle for books that often ensues in the university library. The demand for core texts soars above supply and ownership allows you to avoid the annoyance of having to return a book in the middle of exams or halfway through a piece of coursework. EBooks allow for constant availability of texts at far lower prices, which you must admit is a highly desirable position to be faced with.

Devices such as the iPad and the Kindle also allow you to store large numbers of documents in one convenient place, without the drama and fuss of lugging half your body weight in books around campus. The iPad's excellent compatibility with PDF files allows you to collate a large number of academic articles and texts from JSTOR and from the websites of academic journals. Moreover, iPad has full email functions and your Kindle comes with its own email address, allowing you to easily send documents to your device so long as they have a WIFI connection. This not only vastly reduces your photocopying bill, but provides a far greener option to your study.

Even in the face of all that digital media has to offer students, I hear the grumblings of traditionalists in the background, mumbling that they "cannot scribble any thoughts in the margins, though!" Well, and do forgive me for the cliché, but "there's an app for that!" iAnnotate provides iPad users with the option to scrawl over their digital texts to their heart's content for only £6.99, whilst the Kindle allows readers to type notes that are stored alongside the book for future reference.

All in all, it is clear that digital media is the present and it is also undoubted that it is the future. When you pack your bags for university this September, do yourself a favour and create some space by ditching paper for pixels.