Do Students Hate Textbooks More than They Like Sex?

Steve Wildstrom / July 28th, 2011

It’s no secret that students hate both buying bloated, overpriced textbooks and lugging those bricks around in their backpacks. But we didn’t know how much.

A new survey sponsored by Kno, Inc.–which, not coincidentally, is in the business of e-textbook software–found that 73% of college students would do something they otherwise wouldn’t consider, including giving up sex, if they never had to shlep another textbook.

You can take that finding with a grain of salt, but there’s little doubt that the movement to e-texts is hitting an inflection point. The Kno study, conducted by Kelton Research, also found, more believably, that 71% of students want their texts to go digital.

A big driver, of course, is the rapid adoption of tablets, particularly the iPad, which make excellent textbook readers. An early attempt by Amazon to promote the jumbo Kindle DX as a textbook reader fizzled, mostly because of the limitations of the monochrome, video-free device. But the iPad is so natural for the job that Kno abandoned plans to come out with its own hardware to focus on iPad software.

The most recent big development in electronic textbooks was the announcement by Amazon that to would be renting texts for as little as 30 days and for up to 80% less than the print edition price. The books will be available on all devices that support the Kindle reader,  though I suspect that reading a typical textbook on a phone screen will not be a happy experience.

Amazon has initial partnerships with John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier, and Taylor & Francis. That will limit the selection of text available this fall, though other big players such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson will certainly join if the initial efforts shows legs.

That calculus text pictured above? Single Variable Calculus by James Stewart (Brooks Cole) is one variant of a widely used introductory text that is not available in digital form. A hardcover copy is still going to set a student back more than $100 and create a 2 1/2 lb. lump in a backpack.

 

 

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
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