Study Uncovers Why Students Buy Digital vs Paper Textbooks

Over 75% of US students regularly choose not to buy the textbooks their professors require, a recent student survey has revealed. This is mainly because students find textbooks too expensive and are frustrated by the fact that often only a few chapters from the books are used. In total 2164 US students participated in the survey.

On average, US students spend $655* per year on buying textbooks required for their studies. According to the survey, more than nine out of ten students find textbooks too expensive.

More importantly, this results in 76.6% of US students regularly choosing not to buy the required books. Students say that aside from the high prices, they are frustrated by the fact that professors only put a few chapters of a required textbook on the mandatory reading list during a course.

Instead, students look for cheaper options, for example by copying the needed chapters or finding alternatives online.

The study also shows that in the case where students do buy the textbooks, most of the students buy their books second hand (60%). Only a quarter of them buy the books new, which goes against most professor recommendations, which require the students to purchase the latest edition. The remaining 16% of students find other alternatives, for example by borrowing or renting the required textbooks.

Adoption of digital textbooks faster in US

A majority of 58% prefers digital textbooks. This is because students find them easier to carry, to read from and believe they are cheaper. The same survey was carried out in Europe, where the results were strikingly different. Bookboon’s COO Thomas Buus Madsen:

“American students are at least a couple of years ahead of their European counterparts. In countries such as Germany, the UK and the Netherlands, only around 30-40% of the students prefer digital textbooks. Most European students stick to paper. This is partly because eReaders and e-texbooks are less available. Additionally, publishers, professors and universities in Europe are less active in promoting and adopting the use of e-textbooks compared to the USA.”

Infographic: US students do not buy the required textbooks

About the survey

The Bookboon textbook survey was conducted in the summer of 2012 between the 1st of June and the 1st of September. The survey was conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Respondents were gathered through the Bookboon student newsletter and through Facebook advertising. In total, 9.944 students completed the questionnaire which consisted of 11 questions regarding the use of textbooks. Image via Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar