Most College Students Prefer Printed Textbooks

May 26, 2010

student with booksElectronic textbooks may be less costly than their printed counterparts, but given the choice, many college students say they still prefer the printed versions.

A new survey conducted at 19 campuses by OnCampus Research, a division of the National Association of College Stores, found that 74 percent of students still prefer printed textbooks when taking a class. Moreover, over half the students polled indicated that they were either unsure about purchasing digital textbooks or would not buy them even if they were available.

"The findings of the report are not surprising," said Laura Cozart, manager of OnCampus Research, in a press release. "Every new innovation takes time before the mainstream population embraces it."

Another survey sponsored by Domtar, a paper company, polled 420 college juniors and seniors across the country and found that fewer than 20 percent would give up printed books. Students were more receptive to the idea of receiving study guides electronically such as syllabi, articles and presentations: Just under half said they preferred to receive electronic copies.

Stuart Gage, a professor emeritus at Michigan State University who is conducting a campus-wide survey about how prepared students are for a switch to e-books and digital courseware, told The State News that those feelings are likely to change.

"As technology evolves," he noted, "it's becoming easier and easier and more and more pleasant to read in a digital format."

At Boise State University, students are beginning to embrace e-books, but not without some reservations. Chance Requa, who was interviewed in the school's student publication, The Arbiter, explained that she bought a Kindle because it was more convenient and cheaper than purchasing printed textbooks. But she admitted that using the technology has its disadvantages.

"It's not a book--the self satisfaction of seeing how far you've gone, like when you're halfway through, knowing that," she said. "With an e-reader you have pages but can't visually see how far you've gone."

Crystal Lambert, a student of MSU, agreed. "It goes back to sitting down and reading a book--it's just not the same," she told The State News. "I don't like to read off of a screen. I don't learn as well."

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman


"College Students Prefer Print Over Digital Textbooks," National Association of College Stores press release, May 25, 2010

"MSU Survey Looks at Viability of E-Books," State News, May 24, 2010, Meagan Choi

"Paper--Essential for Life's Big Moments," Domtar survey, May 2010

"Vibrant Technology Takes Learning to New Level," The Arbiter, May 6, 2010

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