On Wednesday, the University of Damascus declared a shift towards utilizing the university’s electronic library resources in lieu of traditional paper books. The decision to cease printing books applies to numerous faculties, with the exception of the Faculty of Sharia, effective from the commencement of this year. The university disclosed that the development of an e-book service is currently underway, and regularly updated lists can be found on its official website.
Digitization of books hampered by slow internet
The Ministry of Higher Education in Syria is striving to digitize university education; however, the limited internet infrastructure poses a significant challenge for students. Reem, a student at the Technical Institute of Business Administration and Marketing in Damascus, expressed that students are hesitant about adopting e-books. The sluggish communication network not only hampers access to the university’s website but also impedes the seamless downloading of books. Additionally, students are accustomed to traditional paper lectures, with many having subscribed to university libraries on a quarterly basis to obtain lectures regularly.
Syria’s internet speed is notably low, ranking 180th out of 182 globally for terrestrial internet speed, as reported by the specialized site Speed test. Furthermore, the mobile internet connection speed in Syria is ranked 132 out of 141 countries. The introduction of 5G, the fifth generation of communication technologies, has yet to be implemented in the country and is currently confined to Wafa Telecom, the third operator.
Despite these challenges, the Ministry recently issued a directive mandating the use of e-books for students in the preparatory year of medical colleges earlier this month. The success of this initiative may hinge on addressing the internet infrastructure issues and addressing students’ concerns about transitioning from traditional paper-based learning to digital formats.
Used books: The current economic alternative
In Syria, academics often depend on purchasing second-hand books from students in previous batches at prices lower than new books. Additionally, written lectures, created through an agreement between students and the library, are commonly bought. Libraries initiate the sale of these lectures at the onset of university courses.
As per the University of Damascus regulations set on November 1 of this year, the official price for printing one sheet is 150 Syrian pounds per side and 250 Syrian pounds for double-sided printing. However, the actual prices in various offices range between 600 and 700 Syrian pounds per sheet. In cases of “common” power outages, the printing cost per sheet can escalate to a thousand Syrian pounds. This increase is attributed to the necessity for libraries to switch to electric generators during power outages, as explained by student Reem. Addressing discrepancies between official and actual prices, especially during power outages, may be crucial for ensuring fair access to printed materials for academics in Syria.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.