Tuesday, March 18, 2008

eBooks and Technology on College Campuses

College Bookstore Retailers get together once a year to discuss ideas and trends in their industry.  This year they gathered in Austin, Texas.  One of the pieces of news coming out of that conference caught my attention.  

It was a report about a speech by Mark Nelson, digital content strategist for the National Association of College Stores.  He spoke at length about digital reading on college campuses.  In his remarks he noted that "digital change could come as quickly as the iPod became a staple of college students."  He went on to say that "in four years, iPod adoption by college freshman went from 0% to 85%."

I knew the percentage of "plugged in" kids was high, but 85%?  Wow!

The advent of digital content and the iPod revolutionized the music business.  I keep waiting for something to come along to do the same for publishing.  I used to think that there might one day be an iPod for books.  I am less certain of that these days. 

But I digress.

The real point is that digital delivery of all media, including reading,  is very much integrated into college life. Even with no iPod for books, digital textbooks are making inroads.  There is enough of a trend that College Book stores are taking note.  A study by the National Association of College stores reports that:

  • 18.5% of students strongly prefer e-texts over the print version of the same books,
  • 18% have purchased or accessed digital material.
  • 17% of students said they would pay more for a print book if a digital version is included.

David Rothman over at Teleread reported on another study.  This one released by Educause.  They did an in depth study of Students and Faculty Preferences for Print Books vs eBooks.  This study had more interesting information about digital reading on college campuses:

  • 18.5 percent of the surveyed students preferred eBooks for textbooks
  • 7.9 percent had no preference for eBooks over print books
  • 80.1 percent of students favored p-books for recreational reading
  • 0% of College Faculty preferred eBooks for recreational reading
  • a mere 2.6 percent preferred E for recreational reading.
  • 38 percent of students favored e reading for research or had no preference

My introduction to eBooks on the college campus was almost six years ago.  My daughter signed up for a political science class.  "The Prince" by Machiavelli  was assigned reading. I'll never forget how excited she when she figured out that she could download the book on to her pocket PC (telephone) and carry one less book.  It seemed like textbooks as eBooks was a natural.  And six years later it is starting to happen. 

I would like to come up with some wise words or profound conclusion about this information.  Unfortunately, after a long week of moving our offices, I am too brain dead to do that.  About the best I can do is to observe that eReading is finally beginning to make a difference in education and it is about time.

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