College students still prefer paper textbooks

The Book Book Industry Study Group have put out a press release summarizing a recent survey of college students. I have to say I'm a little surprised by the results. I'm not surprised by the fact that paper won over digital. I expected that, but I was thinking paper would be preferred because of cost. My text book costs were virtually nil, and that was only because I very carefully shopped online for my paper textbooks. But apparently the disconnect between textbook users (students) and buyers (parents) is greater than I thought. From the press release:

Despite their fondness for social networking and cell phones, most college students say they prefer textbooks in printed rather than e-text form. Nearly 75% of students to recently respond to a major new research survey from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) said they prefer printed texts, citing a fondness for print's look and feel, as well as its permanence and ability to be resold.

This finding was among many uncovered in BISG's inaugural survey entitled Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education. The ongoing survey focuses on college student perceptions related to educational content and presentation media in the higher education market. It is powered by Bowker's PubTrack data, the publishing industry's exclusive resource for understanding buying behavior.

"Research studies like Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education enable informed decision-making," said Scott Lubeck, BISG's Executive Director. "College students are an exceptionally dynamic demographic, making the technology transformation underway within the higher ed market very hard to plot. Our ongoing survey of student attitudes will help everyone in the publishing business make sense of this changing market place by providing hard data on the impact of habits and preferences."

Although not the preferred textbook form for most college students, further data from the survey shows that e-texts do have fans. About 12% of the students surveyed -- mostly males, and often MBA-seeking or distance learners -- said they prefer e-texts to printed texts because of their lower cost, convenience and portability. In addition, online supplemental materials received favor from these respondents as well. Particularly online quizzes that tests students' understanding of a text's content and prepares them for exams. The majority of survey respondents (60%) said they place high value on core textbooks -- whether printed or electronic -- most of which continue to be purchased at the college bookstore (65%). Online purchasing is growing, however. For example, one-fifth of students said they purchased textbooks from Amazon.com. Finally, perhaps because of rising purchase prices, renting a textbook -- rather than purchasing or downloading -- was preferred by 11% of surveyed students.

Additional findings include:

  • Students love a bargain. Survey respondents said they often buy previous editions of a textbook (16% did this for their current class ) or international versions (18% did this at least once).
  • Piracy is pervasive. More than 40% of survey respondents said they bought a textbook from a pirate website, or know others who have. In addition, many respondents reported copying their friends' textbooks.
  • Some learning tools have high value. Print study guides, Campus Learning Management Systems -- such as Blackboard and WebCT -- and diagnostic self-tests held high value for survey respondents.
  • And some learning tools have low value. Online tutoring, audio study guides and "clickers" used in the classroom by instructors held low value for survey respondents.

Data from this benchmark survey will be presented at BISGÂ’s February 9, 2011 event: What College Students Think: Making Information Pay for Higher Ed Publishing. Early bird registration for this inaugural publishing industry event has been extended until Friday, January 14, 2011. More information, and a link to registration, is available at http://www.bisg.org/events-0-615-mip-for-higher-ed-publishing.php. "As with every part of the publishing industry, the college textbook market is undergoing exponential change," said Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services at Bowker. "Trying to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of what students expect and need related to an enriched learning experience will continue to pay big dividends to those taking the time to understand this ever changing market." The findings from Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education come from a semi-annual online survey of college students, drawn from a nationally representative panel. To ensure the survey questions explored the appropriate trends and issues, they were developed in partnership with a variety of publishers and other companies working in the higher ed market place. In addition to the core question set, survey sponsors and other interested parties can submit proprietary questions to supplement the core fieldings. Those interested in submitting proprietary questions should contact Angela Bole in the BISG office at 646-336-7141 x13 or [email protected]. Survey findings are available for sale both as a PDF summary report and as a complete data compendium, accessible online. A substantial discount is available for BISG members. For more information, or to order a copy of Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, visit http://www.bisg.org/publications/product.php?p=22&c=437.

About Nate Hoffelder (11370 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

1 Comment on College students still prefer paper textbooks

  1. What is a paer text?

    What happened to the Kobo press release?

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