As a undergraduate student five years ago, digital textbooks were not as popular as they are now. I remember seeing the e-textbook option available for purchase but it wasn’t until I started graduate school that I felt comfortable purchasing the digital format of a textbook. In a recent study completed by Naomi S. Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, 300 college students were asked if they prefer to read print textbooks or digital textbooks. The study found 92% of college students prefer to physically touch the pages of a print book instead of reading an e-textbook from a electronic device. The college students who participated in the study reported the likelihood of becoming distracted on the electronic device was too high, they like knowing how far they have read into the book, others mentioned they receive headaches and their eyes strain when using e-textbooks.

When I was an undergraduate student, most of my textbooks were not available as an e-textbook. From an outsiders perspective, I assumed since there are now more e-textbooks available college students would be eager to use them. It seems logical to think that a college student would jump at the chance to opt-out of carrying a heavy and expensive print textbook. In a pilot program conducted using students from University of Wisconsin, Cornell, University of Minnesota, University of Virginia and Indiana University. Students were given e-textbooks for the Spring 2012 semester to find out why college students are not purchasing digital formats. 

During the pilot, students reported problems with readability, the e-textbooks were not compatible with all mobile devices, and the navigation tools designed to help students annotate and highlight text did not function well. Students noticed that if instructors are not utilizing the e-textbook to teach the course, the alluring collaborative tools and note sharing features used to provoke college students to purchase the e-textbook are not as useful because the instructor’s materials reference the print version. 

College students would be more interested in using e-textbooks that developers create to fit the needs of the average student. Students would be more interested in purchasing e-texbooks if they did not require access to the internet. Consistant access to the internet can be an issue as most students do not have unlimited access to the internet from their mobile devices. Students also want e-textbooks to be available for the duration and not just the semester the e-textbook is purchased. College students can purchase a print book for a similar price and have the option of keeping the book or selling it at the end of the semester. E-textbooks cannot be sold back to bookstores or to other students at the end of the semester. 

Although college students can sometimes spend significantly more for a print book, the cost of saving money using the digital format does not out-way the value of a print book. Will this trend change as a younger generation of students begin entering into college? For current college students, using a print book to learning in the classroom has been the norm since elementary school. The ease of using the print book while studying seems familiar. Students have always used print books to learn, maybe schools will need to consider introducing e-textbooks in the classroom early-on at the primary level to change this learning pattern for students. 


Schaub, Michael “92% of college students prefer print books to ebooks, study finds.” LA Times, 8 February, 2016,,amp.html?client=safari

Schwartz, Katrina “Why College Students Still Prefer Print Over E-books.” KQED News, 14 September, 2012,

Bolkan, Joshua “Survey: Most Students Prefer Traditional Texts over E-books.” Campus Techology, 1 September, 2015,

Watters, Audrey “Why Aren’t Students Using E-books?” KQED News, 7 November, 2011,