The Direct Network

Print vs. Digital — the Student’s Perspective

Posted by Dean Asher on Feb 11, 2015 10:00:00 PM
Topics: digital content, Higher Ed, print, retail technology

These days, it seems easier than ever to repeat the popular mantra: "Print is Dead."

After all, eReaders are taking off, tablets are potentially overtaking PC sales this year and there continues to be a steady decline of print ad revenue.

But for students, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Despite all these trends, research shows that the large majority of students still prefer an old-fashioned paper experience when choosing course materials.

Print vs. Digital

The pros of print

According to the NACS Foundation’s Spring 2014 OnCampus® Student Watch™ survey, students prefer print, saying it’s easier to study from and highlight. Most students argued they simply prefer reading a physical book and not a screen.

Most digital purchases were only made when they were required and there was no physical option. Students found the lack of buyback options with digital titles a concern, with about 40% of students saying they perceived buying a textbook and selling it back at the end of term was the least expensive way to get the books they needed for the term. (For reference, 21% said digital rentals and fewer than 8% of students said buying digital books seemed cheapest.)

The digital edge

That’s not to say that digital titles were not without merits or a growing number of fans among students, of course. The report states that students who did buy digital titles said they were “very useful,” and the format was most commonly used by four-year students.

In the Spring 2014 term, 60% of students said they preferred print titles, while just 12% preferred digital. Slightly more preferred a print title that came bundled with a digital component, however, at about 22%, indicating a growing interest in digital materials as a supplement to print texts.

So which should you adopt?

It’s up to you and your students. While students believe that print books have a cheaper cost of use due to buyback value, digital materials can still save students up to 80% off the list price through your Online Bookstore. And Student Watch notes that “as more digital books move away from the static eBook model and into an adaptive learning model, student preferences may start to shift.” Options along these lines are already available through MBS Direct with VitalSource™ titles, which feature highlighting, note taking and automatic citation that can enable your students to engage with their eBooks on a different level.

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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