Do you prefer printed books?

A study group for the book industry in the US has found that:

…most college students say they prefer textbooks in printed rather than e-text form.

They also found:

About 12% of the students surveyed — mostly males, and often MBA-seeking or distance learners — said they prefer e-texts to printed texts because of their lower cost, convenience and portability.

So what does this tell is about the use of e-books in education?

That we should ignore e-books and only buy paper books?

Go back to the point “students say they prefer”, preference is about making a choice, and choice is important. Preference also can mean that both options are liked, but students when asked to make a choice, prefer printed books over e-books. For example I like tea and coffee, but prefer coffee.

There is another issue here in how textbooks are used by students. I wrote about this last May following a report in The Seattle Times that:

It would appear that students at the University of Washington don’t like using the Kindle compared to use printed books.

There were some interesting results and comments from the pilot. 80% would not recommend the Kindle as a classroom study aid for example. However 90% liked it for reading for pleasure.

The implication is that the Kindle did not work in the classroom, however as a device to read books it works fine.

This is a lesson that educational publishers need to recognise when publishing content to platforms like the Kindle and the iPad. Though novels are linear and as a result eBook formats can “work” like a printed book, educational books are used differently and as a result eBook versions need to work differently. Students need to be able to move around quickly, annotate and bookmark.

The experiences at the University of Washington show that the issue wasn’t really with the Kindle, but was much more about the format of educational text books in the ebook format.

I would argue that the results of the BISG survey is a similar issue, in that the merely digitising academic textbooks is not how we should be creating academic e-textbooks.

Students do not use textbooks in the same way that they read a novel. Digital textbooks need to evolve as do e-book readers. The iPad is starting to show the potential of what can be done, but more work needs to be done on how students use textbooks and how they could use digital versions of the textbooks.

The JISC work on e-books is certainly a start on this and makes for interesting reading.

We are still in the early days of how e-books will be used and can be used.

2 thoughts on “Do you prefer printed books?”

  1. As ever it is about uses and context. If I want to read a single ‘book’ from start to finish in one location then i’d likely choose a print book.

    However if I need to only read a section or ‘find’ something, then the search feature of my e-book reader and portability means e-book wins hands down, particularly as I read in several locations.

    If we use today as an example, I have a print book (ordering disorder – grid principles for the web) that I want to read at home AND during lunch… so it now sitting at home is frustrating. So instead I have just copied an e-book from my dropbox to my e-book reader and will read that instead.

    A lot like Vinyl and sneaker fiends, we are emotional attached to print books/sneakers. But then I guess we were the same about an encyclopedia before the internet, Wikipedia and our online hive mind.

    When you see me at events it is likely that I have 1 print book and several dozen e-books.

    I still buy CDs BUT only for the inlay….. I listen to the music digitally.

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