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Are e-Textbooks Taking Over the Classroom?

Are college students willing to give up sex and dating to never have to carry another textbook in their life? Originally inspired by an article from Colleen Taylor citing a survey suggesting just that, we used our VI Platform to investigate. We set up a series of searches around the topic and geared toward answering a few questions: Are sex/dating and textbooks actually related? As students head back to school, are they talking about e-textbooks? Are students abandoning traditional textbooks for the digital version? Here’s what we found:

We found no evidence of college students foregoing sex or dating for e-textbooks. While we’re certain the survey conducted by KNO was at least somewhat tongue in cheek, the question remained: “Are students adopting this new technology?” The short answer that we discovered is no. The long answer requires taking a deeper look at the data.

While there was a ton of chatter on the topic, students were not the main contributors to the conversation. Not by a long shot. They are quick to share how much they hate carrying and purchasing textbooks:

But by and large have little to say on the topic of e-textbooks. Manufacturers and sellers have plenty to say on that topic. Here’s a sample of the search results we found:

We have here what appear to be auto-generated tweets. These particular types of sentiment do not help build the case for e-textbook adoption by the student. In order to be convinced that college students are abandoning print, we need to see organic, unsolicited posts. We found a few, enough to convince us that e-textbooks will take off in the near future, but not enough to think it’s happening now. The following pie chart shows the breakdown of the conversation we found, based on a relevant sampling of the data.

We also found various articles that support the data (lack of conversation among students) that we found. Kindle Accessories Review published this and said that students still prefer paper textbooks for a number of reasons, including the fact that electronic versions often expire at the end of the semester, preventing resale. This article from Wired plays the middle of the fence on the issue, acknowledging the many benefits to using e-readers in the classroom, but admits that the technology is not where it needs to be for complete adoption.

Conclusion: e-textbooks are the way of the future, but the future just isn’t here quite yet. What do you think? Are you a student (or know of one) whose made the shift to digital? Do you still prefer print? I’d love to hear your comments!

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