Student Demand for E-Textbook Formats

An instructor for a Winter session course has adopted a textbook that is also available from the publisher in several e-formats. I want to work with students in the course who are interested in using e-readers to learn from their experience so that we can design services to support wider adoption. I asked the 75 students who have already registered for the course the question below. So far, 54 students have responded:

I want my textbook to be (check all that apply):

1. An e-book loaded onto my iPad, SonyReader, Entourage Edge, or Kno. = 11 (20% of the respondents chose this format)

2. A PDF file that I would read on my computer or laptop. = 34 (63%)

3. An e-book loaded onto my Kindle. = 10 (19%)

4. A group of Web pages that I can access from my computer or laptop. = 27 (50%)

5. ONLY a printed, paper book. (Do not check this if you checked any of the above.) = 15 (28%)

I am disappointed that more than one-quarter of the respondents want no e-book option at all. The large number of responses in favor of PDF could indicate an interest in simply printing out out the book using the student printing allocation. I am pleased by the variety of formats that at least some students were willing to use. There is probably enough interest for us to work with the class. If that occurs I will share more information about the course and how the e-book will be used.

Update: Based on the responses to the survey the BCTC will run a test with this class to determine what technical support from us is needed for students to work with textbooks in these digital formats. We will also document their experience working with them. Today the students will receive a message from me indicating that on the first day of class they will get a code to access all the digital formats at no charge, including the ancillaries to the textbook. They will also be able to purchase a print copy of the textbook from the Baruch College bookstore or directly from the publisher at the list price.

Update: At the end of the Winter session we administered a survey to the 84 students who completed the course.  Here are the key findings:

  • One-third of the students opted to use only digital formats and reported not printing any pages from the textbook.
  • 55% of the students required no assistance with downloading and using the digital content.  The students who did require assistance rated the support from BCTC and publisher very highly.
  • Three-quarters of the students reported that this experience increased their interest in using an e-textbook in their other courses.   18% said that it  had no effect.  Several students reported that their interest decreased, but their answers to other questions indicates that they did not use the digital formats.
  • The average  number of formats used by students was 1.86 out of a possible 5 formats, including print. The highest number reported was 4.  Students used the formats for different purposes and different situations.  For example, PDF or Kindle when on a subway and or when Web access was not available.
  • Students liked: accessibility, convenience, ancillaries (flashcards, quizzes), not having to carry and risk losing a textbook, using chapters at a time, and helping the environment.
  • Students disliked: not being able to annotate, the absence of an active table of contents in one format, download time for PDF files, not being able to load onto a smartphone, and eye strain.
  • The free access to the digital files in this project contributed greatly to the positive experience.

Anticipated vs. Actual Use of Formats

Prior to the start of classes we measured interest among the students by polling them about their anticipated use of each format (see above, n=54).  We repeated that question in the exit survey (n=84) and the students’ reported use of formats is compared with their anticipated use below.

1. An e-book loaded onto my iPad, SonyReader, Entourage Edge, or Kno. = (20% anticipated vs. 5% actual)

2. A PDF file that I would read on my computer or laptop. = (63% anticipated vs. 66% actual)

3. An e-book loaded onto my Kindle. = (19% anticipated vs. 6% actual)

4. A group of Web pages that I can access from my computer or laptop. = (50% anticipated vs. 30% actual)

5. ONLY a printed, paper book. (Do not check this if you checked any of the above.) = (28% anticipated vs. 11% actual)

The publisher reported 32 downloads of the textbook in ePub format (38%) and 22 downloads of .mobi files (26%).

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1 Response to Student Demand for E-Textbook Formats

  1. Your survey findings echo those of a recently published survey by the Book Industry Study Group that show only a quarter of students would prefer an ebook.
    –via Harvard Library Innovation Library

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