E-book sales only accounted for 11% of the textbook market in 2011, but that 11% is the result of a 44.3% jump in e-textbook sales in 2011.
We’re college students. We wake up in the morning and start our day checking our email on our phones. Then we get dressed, go to class and open our laptops to the lecture slides our professors posted on Blackboard the night before. We check Facebook at some point or two or three. We send text messages. In the library, we do our reading assignments online and write our papers on Word. Maybe we’ll unwind with a YouTube video or a few minutes on Reddit before we go to bed.
We’re hooked up to our electronics 24/7, and more than a third of us can’t go more than 10 minutes without checking some type of “digital technology,” according to a story published in Wired magazine last year. And yet, surprisingly, some students want their studies to remain low-tech and their textbooks in print.
When Scott Hamula queried students in both sections of his advertising class about whether they preferred e-textbooks or hard copies, he found that the vast majority of students preferred the hard-copy versions of textbooks. Hamula, an integrated marketing communications professor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., wasn’t surprised.
“Students like having the ability to go back and forth quickly within the book and to physically write in the margins,” Hamula said. He added that many of the students also preferred the smell and feel of the hard copies.
The Wired article also said that e-book sales only accounted for 11% of the textbook market. This may seem minimal, but that 11% is the result of a 44.3% jump in e-textbook sales in 2011.
One of the biggest draws of adopting e-textbooks is savings. E-textbooks are touted for being cheaper than their print-edition counterparts.
“Hardcover textbooks are expensive,” Hamula said. “It adds up when students are taking multiple classes that require multiple textbooks.”
Yet he primarily relies on printed textbooks for his classes. In the past, Hamula considered switching to online, but eventually decided against it.
“I find students try to print chapters, which defeats the whole purpose,” both from a cost and environmental perspective, he said.
He added that there are cheaper options for those who want the print editions of their textbooks, such as sharing and renting.
University of Pennsylvania senior and Arlington, Va., resident Anthony Tran, 21, said he thinks hard-copy textbooks are “easier on the eyes.”
“After staring so long at the computer screen, it kind of hurts,” he added.
Tran used to print his readings, but over time switched back to reading online because printing became “too much of a hassle.”
Ashlee Hon, 20, a University of Pennsylvania junior from Staten Island, N.Y., agrees.
“If you have to stare at the computer too long, you don’t want to do [the readings],” she said. She added that print copies of books are also more maneuverable because you can take them with you and read them in bed.
Hon did acknowledge, however, that an e-reader like a Nook or iPad might make online reading more convenient.
According to a Pew Internet report conducted last year, 10% of people ages 18-29 own e-readers. They are less likely to own an e-reader than any other age group under 65. However, 12% own tablets. This percentage is larger than for any other age group.
But the issue isn’t just discomfort. Some students also find it’s easier to absorb information when reading the hard copies.
“It’s easier to highlight and annotate [with hard copies],” Tran said. “With online readings, I end up scrolling through and not reading as closely.”
Hon also absorbs information more easily from print materials. Online, she uses a split screen to take notes on a Word document. This is different from “hands-on text” in which she can take notes directly on the page.
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