Why print is still winning
The debate about digital textbooks (etextbooks) and whether they will replace their physical counterparts continues this week with recent findings from the University of Washington. Their study showed that roughly 25% of students who were given free versions of etextbooks still purchased a physical copy of the same book.
“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”
Another survey done by Student Monitor found that 87% of college students purchased their textbooks as physical books, not etextbooks. Moreover, as mentioned in this Washington Post piece, “Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer rint for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally.”
More and more studies are finding that physical books win out because they are easier to follow and students read them more carefully; thus absorbing more information. Readers, according to researchers, remember the location or information by page and text layout—something that an e-reader can’t provide. Other studies found that students were much less likely to multitask while reading a hard copy (1%) versus reading on an e-reader (90%).
So what does this mean for textbook publishers, schools and colleges? If students truly prefer print and learn more while reading print, why push them towards a digital version?