The eBook Myth and the College Student

[responsive]College-Student2[/responsive]You might think that college students would adore e-books as a replacement for their big, bulky and weighty textbooks. You might also think that the cost-savings alone would drive more students to the digital versions of those texts.

On both points, according to an editor of Fordham’s student news site, you’d be wrong.

“For students, it’s especially important to save money on textbooks—and by sticking with print books, we’ll be doing just that,” writes Rachel Shmulevich in The Observer.

“Never mind how much easier it is flip to a certain page, and dog-ear or place sticky-notes on others while in the middle of a fast-paced lecture (a 2011 University of Washington study found that e-readers were simply not built for this kind of academic reading), or the fact that it’s quite likely your required books might not be available in e-book format, the cost of a paper book is about the same as that of an e-book, the only difference being that you don’t need to purchase a costly e-reader,” she continues.

While Shmulevich didn’t cite the sources for her facts on cost comparisons, we do know that several studies have proven that reading comprehension and recall diminishes with e-books, leading college students to prefer print for studying and note taking.

Why are e-books this expensive, when it’s just digital data? According to Shmulevich, there are hidden costs in creating e-books that aren’t obvious at first glance.

“There’s a myth that the cost of production for an e-book is virtually nothing compared to the monumental costs involved in printing paper books: but that’s exactly what it is—a myth,” Shmulevich explains.

“Even when you take into account the cost of paper, printing costs and shipping costs, it only costs around $2.50 to make a typical $25 hardcover. And the process is relatively simple. But creating an e-book is not as straightforward as creating a PDF of each page of the corresponding paper book. The EPUB file is used by most (but not all) e-readers and e-book software, and it is notoriously difficult to create.”

Add to that the cost of acquiring the reader for those books and the price tag goes up again for the cost-weary collegiate.

While e-books have certainly gained popularity, only four percent of readers reported they had switched exclusively to digital, according to research from Princeton Survey Research Associates.

“We live in a print world, and we’ll continue to do so,” insists Shmulevich. “There might be something out there that is cheaper, easier and more economical than print books, but it certainly isn’t the e-book. Whatever it is, we haven’t found it yet, and until that time, print books will continue to be the best choice both in and out of the classroom.”