When It Comes To Learning IN The Digital Age, Print Textbooks Still Rule The Academic World
Sep 22nd 2021 | Posted by W. Ayers

When It Comes To Learning IN The Digital Age, Print Textbooks Still Rule The Academic World

“With everything that's happening and the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old-fashioned.”

Remember the scene in Marvel’s The Avengers movie when Agent Coulson utters that simple yet poignant statement to Captain America? The only difference; this is reality, with everything that's happening, and such things that are about to come too light, already did - more than a year and a half ago.

Reality checks aside, and amidst a global pandemic, a little old-fashioned continues to endure nearly 22 years into the new millennium’s digital age, in the form of print textbooks. Even as the print medium survives on the life support of borrowed time across many areas of the publishing world, students and faculty across K-12 and higher education institutions continue to embrace print textbooks.

A recent 2021 survey published by Direct Textbook, the world's premier online textbook price comparison engine, supports the aforementioned statement with 62% in favor of print textbooks over 29% choosing eTextbooks.


The same can be said of recreational readings from esteemed publishing houses, and even published academic mainstays such as QuickStudy’s flagship laminated study guides, which continue to see increased demand, year-over-year, for its print version.

And despite a decline in recent years, 62% compared to the 72% who chose print over digital in 2015, students are not exactly getting cozy with eTextbooks. In fact, the number of students who preferred the digital alternative increased by just 2% over the same six-year span.


Of course, a number of reasons play into the ongoing debate as to which textbook format is better, and there are many that favor eTextbooks, especially price. However, the quality of one’s overall learning experience leans far more towards print textbooks despite their heftier cost.


Outlined below are additional print textbooks vs. eTextbooks comparisons and the percentages which favor one over the other...

Students who prefer print textbooks cite the following reasons:

• Print textbooks are easier to read (78%)

• Difficulty concentrating on eTextbooks (63%)

• The ability to physically highlight passages (61%)

• Internet access is not required (51%)

• eTextbooks are difficult to navigate and bookmark (50%)

• eTextbooks make students’ eyes hurt (44%)

• The ability to write on pages (35%)

• The ability to resell print textbooks (31%)

• They end up printing eTextbook pages anyway (25%)

Students who prefer eTextbooks cite the following reasons:

• The ability to find passages with search features (88%)

• eTextbooks are environmentally friendly (70%)

• eTextbooks are cheaper (69%)

• The ability to adjust font size and brightness (66%)

• eTextbooks are lighter (57%)

• eTextbooks do not need to be returned (56%)

• Text to audio features (53%)

• The ability to use apps with eTextbooks (32%)

Altogether, technology will continue to progress every aspect of our lives well into the future. There is no doubt the academic world, as we know it, will be far different in the years to come compared to where we are now. After all, how we learn today is much different than how it was done back in the day. And though innovation does have tremendous upside, some things are just better left as they are - for now.