Students prefer using traditional printed textbooks over electronic books for academia, according to a study by Queens College humanities librarian, Nancy Foasberg.
According to the study, “course-related reading was paramount and usually took place in a print format.” Participants in the small study were mostly under 25, an age closely associated with being technologically savvy.
Foasberg wanted to do this study because a previous survey on reading habits found that students used different reading formats for different reasons.
“I wanted to figure out when they would use one over the other and why,” Foasberg said.
The study will be published in September 2014 in the College and Research Libraries journal. It collected information about the reading habits of 17 students using a diary method, where students recorded any readings they did that exceeded 10 minutes. During the two-week study, students also recorded what format they used to read, the length of time and their reading location.
According to Foasberg’s study, “There are several reasons that readers and students in particular, may choose one reading format over another.”
With all of the technology and new media present, some may think that paper books are “old-fashioned,” but many believe they are better for studying.
Foasberg cites several reasons why students tend to gravitate towards printed books for academic studying rather than eBooks.
“Many of them said they have difficulty taking notes in electronic format…they were much more likely to take notes and annotate when they were using a print text,” she said.
Results show that students took notes or annotated in 42 percent of their reading sessions with non-electronic formats, while students only engaged in note taking in 16 percent of reading sessions with electronic formats.
Some students have an issue with concentrating while using the eBook format. While Foasberg is unsure of what effect eBooks have on concentration, she gathers, “it probably varies based on the person.” However, she says that when people wanted to concentrate, they used print. Students also report that posture and eyestrain are factors in their choice to use print books over eBooks.
With summer ending and classes resuming for the fall, this is the time of year when students are buying textbooks. The financial aspect of choosing a book format can also determine the purchase of an eBook or a printed book. EBooks are usually cheaper than printed books and are not as heavy.
“The feel of turning pages is more authentic to me, but the technology makes it convenient to carry a ton of books at my fingertips,” QC student, Dominique Francis said.
With the different formats to choose from, it is ultimately up to the student to choose their preference. When it comes to academia they prefer printed formats, but there are some advantages to eBooks.
Eric Duran, student and a student ambassador for the McGraw-Hill book publishing company at QC, says, “In my honest opinion, I don’t mind using an eBook.”
His opinion mirrored what Foasberg found to be common points among the students who participated in this study, that eBooks are cheaper and that they have the same material as printed books. And when finished using printed books, they can be sold back.