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UK Students Aren’t Buying eBooks

Earlier this week I posted on a presentation that Bowker gave on their first annual world ebook market survey.  That survey, which covered 10 countries, wasn’t the only new survey that Bowker has started recently. A few days ago BML Bowker released some of the results of a new UK study. A  total of X university students were polled in December 2011, and they were asked where they got their content for class.

The students indicated that print books were the most common source of study material, with instructor hand-outs coming in a close second (88%, 87%). Online journals came in third with 79%, and ebooks came in 4th with 62%. Whart’s even more interested is that when students were asked to pick just 3 sources, ebooks dropped off the chart (< 5%).

This is an ebook blog, so you might expect me to be disappointed.  I’m not, and that’s because the idea of ebooks is a tad anachronistic  when it comes to textbooks. I’ve mentioned in the past that the digital textbook innovators are not making digital textbooks. What you see in this survey is that students aren’t using them, either. Instead they’re using free (to them, at least) online content or free teacher hand outs.

Now that is interesting.

BTW, there’s one bit of info that Bowker didn’t share in the press release (they’ll sell it to you in the complete report). I’m curious about how many students are buying the paper textbooks they’re using. I suspect that this figure will be about the same as the number that aren’t buy ebooks.

The survey results showed a low number of students buying ebook (9%). Bowker indicated that students instead tended to get them for free or borrow from the library. This would tend to fit in with a growing trend here in the US, where students are buying fewer textbooks each year.

Here’s the thing. UK students aren’t inclined to buy digital textbooks, while at the same time digital textbooks are the hot new thing for publishers, with Inkling Habitat and iBooks Author getting all sorts of media attention. Who’s going to be buying those digital textbooks?

This little bit of news does not bode well for publishers.

UK study

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Sturmund Drang March 22, 2012 um 5:40 pm

I wonder, is it possible with ebook readers being the rage if people aren’t going back to the classics since they’re both free and wonderful? At least enough of a percentage to affect results like this. I made a comment here the other day about an ebook store selling Huck Finn and Austen’s P&P for over six dollars each. No one, besides your Aunt Thelma, would pay for Huck Finn but with B&N, Apple, Amazon, and Bilboe offering to sell you a copy wouldn’t that make you value it more…and find a free copy? Wouldn’t students, to a large extent, find the etext for Gravity’s Rainbow & To Kill A Mockingbird, since they aren’t even legitimately available, then find pirated versions of other books they wanted, then move on to Hardy, Wilde, Lawrence, et. al.?

Or am I completely out of touch with the 21st century?

Students Are Using – But Not Buying – Digital Textbooks, Coursesmart Survey Shows – The Digital Reader May 23, 2012 um 7:16 pm

[…] legally had for free.And I have good reason to think that they’re not pirating the content. A recent Bowker survey revealed that students were more likely to be using free and legal content than buying it. That […]

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