Digital Textbooks Are Rising in Popularity Among College Students

If you are buying all of your textbooks in the paper version, you are part of a dwindling group. According to, digital versions of textbooks are a growing trend, fueled by the cheaper cost of digital books and the convenience of these educational tools.
“There’s been a boom in digital titles this year,” said Miguel Suarez, the general manager of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus bookstore. Suarez said that the percentage of textbooks that are available in the digital format has increased to 25 percent this year; it was only 10 percent last year.
Suarez is not the only one to notice a drastic increase in the prevalence of digital textbooks. The National Association of College Stores expects digital textbooks to account for up to 15 percent of all course materials that will be sold by the Fall 2012 semester. Last year, these products only accounted for three percent of total sales.
Cost is obviously a big factor in many students’ decisions to buy a digital textbook. For example, a business textbook at Suarez’ store costs $151.40 for a brand new copy and $113.55 for an used copy. The digital version of the textbook only costs $83.90, which is almost 45 percent less than the new paper version of the same book.
Digital textbooks are also more convenient for students. They are obviously lightweight, since you can fit hundreds, if not thousands, of books on a tablet reader. This means that students do not have to lug around heavy textbooks to class, which is a relief for many students who have sore backs at the end of a class day. The digital textbooks can also be accessed through various platforms, such as Nook Study, VitalSource, and Bookshelf.
“It absolutely seems a lot more convenient to store books in one place,” said James McConnaughy, a senior at Boston University.
So, will students be buying all of their books in the digital format in the very near future? Maybe, maybe not. According to Jade Roth, who is the VP of books and digital strategy at Barnes & Noble, the digital textbook industry has a long way to go in order to make this dream a reality. Currently, only about 25 percent of college textbooks are available in a digital form.
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