Survey: Most Students Prefer Traditional Texts over E-Books

Nearly three quarters — 72 percent — of college students prefer traditional textbooks to electronic versions, according to a new survey from Direct Textbook.

"Textbook purchasing trends align with the survey results," according to a news release. "According to the Student Monitor, 87 percent of textbooks purchased by students in 2014 were print editions (36 percent new, 36 percent used, 15 percent rented). E-books comprised only 9 percent of the market. The remaining 4 percent was made up by file sharing."

Reasons commonly cited by students for preferring traditional books include:

  • They are easier to read;
  • Students like to physically highlight selections;
  • They're cheaper;
  • Students prefer the formatting;
  • They're easier to navigate and bookmark;
  • E-books make students' eyes hurt;
  • Students find it harder to concentrate on e-books;
  • Traditional books do not require Internet access;
  • Students like to write on the pages;
  • Tablets or laptops are not allowed in class;
  • Availability of e-books is limited; and
  • Students end up printing the pages of e-books anyway.

Among the 27 percent of respondents who do prefer e-books, common reasons for the preference include:

  • E-books are cheaper;
  • They are lighter;
  • They don't have to be returned;
  • They are more environmentally friendly than paper books;
  • They are searchable;
  • Print size and brightness is adjustable;
  • They can convert text to audio; and
  • They can be used with apps.

"Given the ubiquity of e-book-reading devices on college campuses, it's interesting that students prefer print textbooks over e-books, and that purchasing behavior supports that sentiment," said Morgan MacArthur, chief technology officer at Direct Textbook, in a prepared statement. "What's even more interesting are the differences in perception: both students who preferred textbooks and those who preferred e-books cited lower prices as a reason."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

comments powered by Disqus

Campus Technology News

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.