The 2013 spring college semester has seen an even greater increase than anticipated in the purchase and download of digital textbooks, just one of many book buying options available at DirectTextbook.com. While the purchase of digital textbooks over hard copy books has increased nearly 75% in the past two years, the satisfaction rate reported by students is on the decline.
"There's still a market for traditional textbooks," said DirectTextbook.com President Chris Lindgren. "Today's students are demanding more and more options, and with our site they have the option to buy, rent, sell or download their books in a variety of different formats."
From 2011 to 2012, students reported a 4% decrease in customer satisfaction when purchasing digital textbooks. Many eBooks can't be accessed offline, limiting students to study areas with Internet access only. eBooks also present a distraction problem for students, who report being more likely to check email and Facebook while studying on a digital device.
Cost can also be an issue. While eBooks sometimes have a lower up-front cost when compared with print books, the total cost of ownership is often higher since eBooks can't be sold back at the end of the semester.
"While digital downloads are a great option to have, students have a lot of practical needs that eBooks simply can't meet," said Lindgren.
A survey of over 3,000 members on LibraryThing.com found that many students dislike digital textbooks because it causes them eyestrain while reading. The study also found that even in an increasingly digital age, students like the feeling of holding a hard copy book in their hands. Education expert Wallace Yovetich says this is because digital textbooks don't allow kinesthetic learners to engage with what they're reading, making it more difficult for these students to absorb and retain information.
It's unclear whether the future of college textbooks lies in a solely digital platform, or in a combination of offerings. Whatever the preferred textbook format of the future will be, online purchases have remained on the rise, escalating by 11% since 2011.