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E-Textbook Dissatisfaction Grows as Students Progress Through School

Anybody who says Facebook has totally lost the college crowd is misinformed. College students spend an average of 7.6 hours on that social networking site every week, compared to just under five hours on YouTube and three hours each on Twitter and Instagram.

Ninety-six percent of undergraduates own a laptop, and these same individuals spend about 32 hours each week on it between doing school-related work and taking recreation. And although the typical student has at least two devices by which to access the Internet and many have three, they still prefer to use their laptops in the classroom over any other mobile device.

These statistics come out of a survey sponsored by textbook price comparison site CampusBooks and run by marketing research firm Campbell Rinker. The study questioned 1,072 undergraduates in the United States with demographics that matched up to those in colleges overall. That means about six in 10 respondents were female and seven in 10 Caucasian. The survey results had about a 3 percent margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level.

Nearly half of students have been assigned an e-textbook for a course, but they're not uniformly happy about it. Only 44 percent were at least somewhat or very happy using an e-book; 39 percent were somewhat or very unhappy. The researchers noted that dissatisfaction with e-textbooks appears to rise slightly as students progress through school.

In spite of their dissatisfaction, however, the preference for e-books gains in popularity as students get older. That may be owing to financial considerations. The report found that as students age, they're more likely to pay for books themselves.

The survey results said that 85 percent of students buy textbooks online, 56 percent through the college bookstore and 28 percent from friends, family or classmates who have taken the course previously. New textbooks and those purchased from the bookstore are more likely to be paid out of financial aid. More than three in four students prefer used textbooks and half choose to rent when they can.

As a follow-on to that, the survey asked people to specify how they take notes in class. Nine in 10 said they do it on paper; 35 percent do on a laptop; and only nine percent do in the textbook itself. That suggests, the researchers stated, "that students are very mindful of resale value, and try to be careful to keep the books they purchase free of marks so that they can be sold back for a higher price."

"This study reveals a great deal about a college student's preferences and habits, especially in terms of the amount of time college students spend on social media sites, use their phones and how they buy their textbooks," noted CampusBooks CEO Jeff Cohen. "While every student's situation is unique, it is important that he or she is aware of the different options available when selecting college textbooks and materials."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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