Every so often I read the pondering of another pundit wondering why ebooks have plateaued at somewhere around a third of the US trade book market, and then I come across surveys which explain the reason.
Well, one of the reasons.
Over the weekend Quartz posted this nifty chart. It’s based on a survey of 1,200 college students in the US, and like past surveys it shows that students still prefer print textbooks over digital.
This comes as no surprise to me (though the details on which is better for specific uses is useful). While I haven’t read a survey on preferences before, I have seen numerous surveys that digital textbook adoption has lagged the industry hype and that mobile device adoption for school work trails behind ownership.
As we’ve seen from the failed startups Kno and Coursesmart, college students aren’t buying digital textbooks. In part that is a market issue caused by college students needing to resell their overly expensive textbooks, but this has another cause: usability.
Digital textbooks are great, right up until you need to have several of them open at once. The issues are only heightened by the fact that most textbook titles can’t be borrowed from the library as ebooks, meaning that a student would have to buy them (again, market constraints). Once you begin to actually use a digital textbook, it’s pretty clear why print is more useful.
So this survey comes as no surprise.
It was interesting, though, to learn that activities like scheduling, reading, note taking, and research are moving to the laptop. This would be a case of students finding additional benefit in a gadget they already own. This doesn’t cost them anything other than time so there’s no market in it, but it is good news for companies like Evernote.