College students: Tablets will replace textbooks by 2017

One in four college students said in a July 2011 survey that they’d give up sex for a year if it meant never again having to carry textbooks around campus, but majorities of students in other opinion polls show a reluctance to give up on traditional texts and switch entirely to electronic books.

The survey, released by Kno Inc., a California-based educational software company, grabbed the attention of educators and students alike—and not so much because the survey shows that lugging heavy books from the dorm to the lecture hall and back isn’t fun, but because of what, exactly, young adults would sacrifice to rid their lives of their 800-page biology text.

Seven in 10 college student respondents said they want digital textbooks options, whether through a popular computer tablet like the Apple iPad or eBooks on a laptop.

But educators and activists who keep a close eye on developments in higher education’s textbook policies said the sky-high demand for eBooks and web-based textbooks material is rarely, if ever, reflected in other national surveys on the issue.

Surveys and polls conducted by the Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) have consistently shown that three in four college students still prefer traditional textbooks. The same surveys have made it clear that students want more textbook options, including eBooks and open-source books that could be sold online or on campus for little or no cost.

“It’s pretty clear that one option isn’t right for everybody,” said Nicole Allen, a Student PIRG spokeswoman who tracks national textbook preferences and policies. “The larger point is that students want options. … I think the [Kno] survey definitely dramatizes that situation.”

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