The eTextbook revolution has been coming for quite some time, but if recent national survey results are any indication, acceptance of nontraditional textbooks isn’t even close to critical mass.

etextbooks-students-collegeThe survey, conducted by and released in July, showed that four in 10 students said they had been assigned an eBook for a college course, meaning non-print books have yet to crack the 50 percent threshold in higher education.

A highlight of the national survey is a look at how college students feel about eTextbooks: 44 percent of respondents said they were “somewhat or very happy” with the user experience, while 39 percent said they were “somewhat or very unhappy” with eBooks as a class resource.

Jeff Cohen, CEO of, said that if eBooks were consistently more affordable than traditional books, national surveys would likely look much different.

“I do think more students would choose that option [if prices were lower],” he said. “Students typically look for the option that has the least expensive upfront cost.”

The survey shows marked progress in the normalizing of eTextbooks as part of the college experience, however.

Only one in 10 college students in 2010 had purchased an electronic book of any kind, and about half of those purchases were for education purposes, according to the National Association of College Stores (NACS) OnCampus Research Division. Responses to the 2010 survey showed that some students were worried that “technical malfunctions” and “accidental deletion of material” would be rife with mass adoption of eBooks.

Advocates for traditional books, like the NACS, pointed to those results as proof that the death of the printed text in higher education had been greatly exaggerated.

The apparent polarization surrounding eTextbooks on college campuses — indicated by the survey and others conducted over the past five years — doesn’t necessarily mean students dislike doing course work on a nontraditional platform.

A 2013 survey conducted by Wakefield Research and digital course materials company CourseSmart asked 500 American college students about their dependence on mobile devices and their opinions on eTextbooks.

(Next page: Interesting survey results)

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