Survey suggests college students still tepid on eBooks

Students say they would buy an eReader if a professor required the device.

Colleges’ embrace of electronic books runs the spectrum from hesitant acceptance to full investment, but students’ reluctance to use the nontraditional textbooks remains, if a new national survey is any indication.

One in 10 college students said they have bought an electronic book in the past three months, and 56 percent of those who had purchased an eBook said it was for educational purposes, according to a study released last month by the National Association of College Stores (NACS) OnCampus Research Division.

The survey included more than 600 college students from across the country, and although NACS advocates for college bookstores—which thrive on traditional textbook sales—the findings painted a bleak picture for campus technology leaders pushing for more use of electronic books.

Seventy-seven percent of students who recently bought an eBook said they read the book on their laptop or netbook.

Only two in 10 read the eBook on an eReader device, such as the Apple iPad or Barnes & Noble Nook. The same number read the eBook on their mobile device, which included BlackBerries and iPhones. Eight percent said they owned an eReader device.

Elizabeth Riddle, a NACS OnCampus Research manager, said the survey findings from this fall show that the college student market is “definitely a growth opportunity for companies providing digital educational products,” but warned that electronic books have not usurped traditional books or college bookstores.

“It seems that the death of the printed book, at least on campus, has been greatly exaggerated, and that dedicated eReaders have a way to go before they catch on with this demographic,” Riddle said.

The on-campus proliferation of the iPad since its release last April hasn’t made eReaders commonplace in the lecture hall yet, according to the survey.

The NACS survey indicated that student respondents like to hold traditional textbooks from the college bookstore, and “some respondents just do not trust technological devices, and worry about technical malfunctions or the accidental deletion of materials.”

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