Friday, May 28, 2010

Do most of the students really prefer physical books on eBooks?

Congrats to all the students who had their graduation ceremonies today, as well to those who have them tomorrow! We think about this generation as one who feels much more comfortable with electronic information and devices, at least much more than my generation (X generation) or the Baby Boomers. But is this true?

A new survey found out that when it comes to bank statements or bills it's definitely accurate, but when it comes to books or magazines the picture is more complicated.

The nationwide poll, conducted by Eric Mower and Associates and commissioned by Domtar, one of North America's leading paper companies, found that while college juniors and seniors believe going paperless helps the environment, fewer than 30% would give up printed books, magazines and newspapers, photos or official documents.

Here's another interesting finding of the survey:
"When it comes to studying at school, 52% of students like materials on paper. 23% report they prefer hard copies of most notes and professors also print out class materials. Another 29% of students said that while they like hard copies, their professors tend to send out electronic copies."

You might be suspicious and wonder if the results has anything to do with the fact that the survey was commissioned by a paper company. I know that I would. I teach students and I see a reality that is a bit different, where a growing number of students feel more comfortable with paperless materials.

Yet, I read this week on The Register that "Amazon's Kindle DX is flunking out of college. According to a report by The Seattle Times, the $489, 18.9 ounce (0.54kg) Kindle DX, with its 9.7-inch monchrome e-ink display, is getting bad grades from college students."

The report on The Seattle Times mentioned that "At the University of Virginia, as many as 80 percent of MBA students who participated in Amazon's pilot program said they would not recommend the Kindle DX as a classroom study aid (though more than 90 percent liked it for pleasure reading)." Why? Well, one of the students quoted in the article explained that "You don't read textbooks in the same linear way as a novel. You have to flip back and forth between pages, and the Kindle is too slow for that. Also, the bookmarking function is buggy."

Amazon, according to the article, seems to be taking the student feedback seriously. The company last month announced software upgrades enabling Kindle users to sort books into collections and zoom in on PDF documents.

It looks to me though that even though now the electronic reading devices might not provide a superior alternative to printed textbook, this situation will change in 5 up to 10 years. Better technology, more user friendly features and the option to get the textbooks in a much cheaper price should do the work for electronic textbooks. I also believe that the number of students willing to exchange their printed books in electronic books is much greater than 30%, but at the same time, the real test is how many students will actually do it and not just talk about it.

What do you think? Please comment and let us know!

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!