IVP - Andy Unedited - Students Hate/Love Print

February 1, 2011

Students Hate/Love Print

Everyone thinks they know where digital publishing is going. Everyone, that is, except for all of us. Take Exhibit A and Exhibit B, brought to my attention by fellow blogger Dan Reid.

Exhibit A comes from a librarian who offers a photographic record of aisle after aisle of library stacks “filled with books but empty of students.” As we scroll down this blog at these hauntingly deserted corridors, we wonder if anyone is studying anything, learning anything—until we get to the last picture. The scholars of tomorrow are energetically, enthusiastically massed at the computer lab. Clearly the world of digital learning is not in the future but has already overwhelmed the present.

Yet consider Exhibit B. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of the demise of print textbooks has been greatly exaggerated. College students in Louisiana are slow to cast aside print texts. And they are not alone. A survey by the National Association of College Bookstores showed that when it comes to the digital generation “only 12.6 percent of the students had purchased an electronic book in the past three months.” Earlier I highlighted a New York Times article that says much the same thing. Students want print, not digital, for their textbooks.

Why these divergent phenomena? I still have lots of questions, along with some opinions, suspicions and guesses. But I’d like to hear yours. Give me your best shot.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at February 1, 2011 7:38 AM Bookmark and Share


The library example seems targeted more at research. You can research topics for a paper much more quickly online (even if online sources may be inaccurate). The internet can give you fast, free, focused results.

Textbooks aren't free. While you can resell a print textbook, I haven't heard anything about reselling digital ones. Once a system is created for digital resale, I think purchases will rise. But for now, the main benefit of a digital textbook is a lighter backpack.

Comment by: Katie Hart at February 4, 2011 11:50 PM

Katie, I think you are right on all counts. Different tools for different purposes. The resale thing is a factor, for sure. But I think it is more than that. Even when students were given Kindles free, they didn't like using them for their textbooks.

Comment by: Andy Le Peau at February 5, 2011 3:36 PM

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Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.