Paper Textbooks: An Endangered Species?

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 4 min read

It’s no surprise how popular Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and, in the same respect, Apple’s iPad have become. Millions of books are available to you at the push of a screen, ridding the days of carrying books around to class, the library and home. Already well-known for the thousands of novels they can contain, these little bookkeepers also provide textbooks to students.

  Barnes and Noble and Amazon already make thousands of e-textbook available on their devices. Amazon is taking the next step and not only making textbooks available, but cutting prices by allowing e-textbook rentals via Kindle and other devices.

  Students spend an average of $745 on textbooks each year. Amazon is advertising that students can save up to 80 percent on textbooks through this system. Imagine how much food and other necessities you could buy for your apartment or dorm.

  The Kindle rental system is extremely versatile. You can access your rentals from your PC, Mac, Kindle, or mobile device. It also saves all of your notes and annotations even after the rental period is over.

  Hardcover Books Bound for Demise?

  This is certain to bring some major competition for textbook rental companies. As more people turn to devices like the Nook, iPad, and Kindle, textbooks and books may become a thing of the past. Also, each student is practically required to own a computer so they may choose to use texts solely on their computer.

  In this past year alone, there has been a 60 percent gain in the number of e-reader owners (not including tablets). By the end of this year it is estimated that 8.7 percent of adults will own e-readers. 12 percent of the U.S. population owns tablets, which are another source for e-books and e- textbooks. Tablet ownership predicted to practically double to 23 percent by next year. Mashable reports that the increase in tablet use may effect or even reduce the rate of e-reader sales because of their multi-functionality.

  This increasing market for both e-readers and tablets can pose trouble for textbook rental companies such as Chegg, CollegeBookRenter, and Barnes and Noble’s book rental system. In addition, university book stores may see some decline in textbook rental due to the new e-rental system.

  Don’t Give Up on Print Just Yet…

  Even with these big savings via e-readers and the e-rental system, it’s not the end to textbooks as we know it just yet. Low-tech print publications still make up 93 percent of the market. Not to mention a study conducted by OnCampus Research found that 74 percent of students still prefer to use a printed textbook.

  Arizona University test-ran the Kindle last fall and discovered that many students found the Kindle frustrating to use and classes weren’t running as smoothly as they should, giving textbook rental companies and co-op stores a sigh of relief.

  A Nielsen Norman Group study discovered that e-readers and tablets reduce reading speed. Speeds declined by 6.2 percent on an iPad and 10.7 percent on the Kindle compared to a regular old book. Something students eager to get work accomplished may not want to turn to.

  Many readers, such as New York Times journalist Jenna Wortham, find it hard to actually finish an e-book. Without the constant reminder of a solid book in front of you, you may forget you started that book in your e-reader library. A lack of page numbers can also make it hard to go back and find where you last left off or to move back and forth in a text book. Even with these complications, e-readers finish 2.6 books a month while traditional bookies read 1.9.

  Afterword: What Happens Next?

  As a lover of books, the Kindle, a mobile device or a computer can’t compare to the turning of a page, writing all over a book, and even ripping a textbook page when you get a tad frustrated. As stats show, print still prevails in the home and classroom, so printed textbooks will still be around for a while.

  But this expanded access to e-readers, e-books and e-textbooks may foreshadow what classrooms will look like in the coming years. As the tablet and e-reader market increases, students may start trending away from textbooks and look into cheaper e-rental and e-textbook options. If the market for these products increases as predicted, backpacks may become a thing of the past.