Graduate Study and eBooks

Graduate school is all about making the most of the time and resources you have. One of those potential resources is eBooks. eBooks are usually evaluated for undergraduate use, but you have different needs than an undergrad and need different information about a resource before you decide to use it. The following article reviews eBook use with graduate study in mind.


The biggest question about eBooks is whether they are compatible with graduate study. Many undergrads find that eBooks are lighter, cheaper, and more convenient, but the same things may not be true for grad students. Reading takes up a large portion of the work you do in graduate school, and the material is academic in nature. This can be incompatible with eReaders, most of which were designed for leisure reading, and the books you need may not be available in eBook form.

eReaders allow you to highlight and type notes in the text, but this could either make note-taking faster or slower for you, and may or may not make the same connections in your brain to help you retain the information. With eReaders you are also likely to lose the cognitive mapping (using the location of information to remember it) that comes with paper books.

You will also have to read articles, conference papers, and dissertations downloaded from online databases. Tablets and laptops will likely be able to handle these files, but some dedicated eReaders will not, especially the less expensive ones. Also, many of these files are PDFs, so it will be harder to take digital notes in them.

One advantageous feature of eReading is the ability to search a text. This feature can quickly allow you to find every mention of a word or topic within a book. This didn’t used to help you search outside a text, for things like references, but new innovations like the Xray feature on some Kindles are beginning to improve this. The Xray feature is “a ‘smart glossary’ that provides links to extra content” on Wikipedia and Shelfari.

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