A 2012 study from the computer networking consortium Internet2 reported students found e-textbooks to be lacking in usability, visual presentation, and navigation. Students participating in e-text pilots said the material was hard to read, complained of eyestrain, and found the content was not always compatible with mobile devices.
Yet, two years is an eternity in the world of technology.
In that time, the price of tablets and the digital course materials have become more affordable while the functionality of e-textbooks has improved, according to a column from Meris Stansbury in eCampus News. In addition, a survey from the Pearson Foundation found that 63% of college students and 69% of high school students believe traditional textbooks will no longer be used within five years and more than half of the college students said they now preferred reading digital textbooks.
Stansbury wrote that the shift is coming, but there are factors that will move the transition along. For instance, she noted the need for more faculty training with the technology, that self-publishing can be an attractive option for instructors, and that there’s a place for the college store partnering with educational publishers to facilitate the bulk purchasing that can lower prices for students.
“Saying that e-books will never take off is like saying, ‘Long live the tape cassette,” Stansbury wrote. “But one fact is clear: printed texts are video rental stores and one day (it may take some decades) those doors will shutter.”