According to a 2011 study cited by Reuters, about 71% of college students said they were ready to “go digital” by accessing required readings on mobile or desktop applications. Additionally, 73% of students said they would even be willing to give up dating if they did not need to carry another heavy, print textbook around campus.
Many students are willing to accept digital textbooks due to the belief that they are cheaper than print versionsMany e-textbooks are also locked up technologically so they can’t be shared, printed or resold. In a recent study of 504 college students by the Student Public Interest Research Group, a consortium of student activists based in Chicago, the organization slammed existing e-textbook efforts such as CourseSmart for “being on the wrong track.”
Frank Lyman, CourseSmart’s executive vice president of marketing, argues that traditional printed books are also limited to one student at a time. CourseSmart is a consortium of publishers, including Pearson and McGraw-Hill Co. Its content, sold in limited-time subscriptions, can be read on PCs and printed out in small batches, but not read on a Kindle or a Sony Reader.
There are questions about how comfortable students will be studying on screens. In the Student PIRG study, 75% of college students said they would prefer print to digital texts.
Moreover, younger students might find the devices antiquated. Last year, educational research group Project Tomorrow asked students what elements they found most important in digital textbooks. Many said they wanted interactive features like videos and quizzes. No dedicated e-readers have these attributes.
In the same time a new study shows that e-textbooks may not be the best way to lower the rising price of course materials. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Daytona State College launched a pilot program in 2009 to test the effectiveness of digital textbooks. Over the course of two years, officials from the school found that in three out of four semesters, e-textbooks only saved students about $1. Additionally, students who chose this digital option could not sell their materials back at the end of the semester like they could if they bought the print versions.
The study indicates that while students are eager to accept technology, the digital textbook industry still has some obstacles to overcome before it provides an overwhelming advantage to degree seekers.
So what about you? Do you prefer classic textbook or are you going for an eBook reader?