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Students and E-books

Students and E-books panel: (L-R) Edward Walton, Erica Swenson Danowitz, Michael LaMagna, Sarah Hartman-Caverly

Students and E-books panel: (L-R) Edward Walton, Erica Swenson Danowitz, Michael LaMagna, Sarah Hartman-Caverly

E-book usage by students continues to be of interest. This session featured two presentations reporting the results of surveys of students to determine their usage and whether e-books would supplant printed books. The first was by Edward Walton, and was based on the Diffusion of Innovations Theory which states that to be adopted an innovation must possess a compelling advantage over the technology it succeeds or there must be sufficient external motivation to compel its adoption. Applied to books, this means that to overcome printed books, e-books must overcome the beloved and romanticized technology of printed books.

The purpose of Walton’s study was to investigate whether 8 factors related to e-book adoption by undergraduate students would cause them to replace printed books. Walton did a 4-question survey of 263 students. Here are some general results:

  • Compelling use. The survey revealed a correlation between leisure reading and students’ choice to use e-books. Students are using e-books for reading for leisure and conducting reserach, but there is little use of e-textbooks, which was surprising.
  • Compelling advantage. A relationship exists between formats available and students’ choice. When both printed and electronic books are available, students overwhelmingly choose print.
  • Forced adoption: There is a relationship between forced adoption and students’ use of e-books. When the e-book is the only format available, students will use them.
  • Convenience: A relationship does exist; when convenient, students will use the e-book.

A significant conclusion to be drawn from the survey results is that libraries should buy books in either the electronic or printed format but not both.

Walton concluded that forced adoption is a major reason for student use of e-books. When it is convenient to use e-books, they will use them. E-books are both loved and hated, sometimes by the same person.

Walton was followed by a joint presentation by Erica Swenson Danowitz, Michael LaMagna, Sarah Hartman-Caverly from Delaware County Community College (DCCC) in the suburban Philadelphia area. DCCC has both rural and urban locations, 13,000 students, 4,000 of who are at branches where there is no library, and 5,000 distance learning students without any access to printed books.

Because of space considerations, a weeding program was undertaken in some of the libraries, which then began to order e-books. To ascertain students’ attitudes towards e-books, a 10 question survey, in both print and online format, was done over a 3 week period in learning commons on main and branch campuses. 138 responses were received.
Here are some results from the questionnaires:

  • Over 90% of the students frequently or constantly access the internet on a mobile device.
  • 71% of them prefer print books if given a choice.
  • Only 15% of students do all or most of their reading from e-books. 55% do some reading from them, and 30% do not use them at all.
  • 40% of the students used e-books for academic reading.
  • About half of them use e-books for leisure reading.
  • 62% said that downloading was an important e-book feature, and 53% said that printing was important.
  • 42% prefer to have a choice between print and electronic formats for the same title.

A free text question provided some interesting responses: e-books could help save a tree, the idea of offering e-readers loaded with e-books was liked, students were willing to use e-book texts for some subjects but not others (math, physics), they wanted a free class explaining e-readers to people new to the format. Techology issues mentioned were: the reader froze too many times and wasted too much time, some students must have printed materials. The survey did not mention the most important factor: cost, cost, cost.

Students cannot resell books when they are done with them like they can with printed books. They have the perception that cost of e-book production is much less than printed books. The ability to navigate text in electronic format lends itself to leisure reading because it is very linear.

Collection development considerations include: there is a divergence in student interest and preparedness to use e-books. Reference works are used more in e-format.


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