Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers



Am I Ready For Digital? (Is My Campus?)

Posted by Kate Seat on 11/5/15 1:00 AM
Topics: digital content, retail technology, faculty relations

As a store leader, you’re in a unique position. While you have the advantage of hearing firsthand what your students want to see available in your course materials department, you then have to find a way to communicate this to faculty and administration. Ultimately, though, the decision for what to adopt lies with them, so it is especially important that you make a clear case when introducing a new format to offer.

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The Increasing Impact of Digital Textbooks

One course material trend that is becoming increasingly more important for higher education institutions — and college stores — to be aware of is eTextbooks.

Why is it necessary to address this now? After all, print still sells, and in fact, many current college students prefer print to digital. According to research from NACS, over 2/3 of students surveyed following the spring 2015 semester purchased either new or used print versions of their course materials. Even with rentals, print was far more popular; though digital rentals did see a 3 percent increase over the previous semester.

Another survey, conducted by Hewlett Packard, found that while 57 percent of those surveyed preferred print textbooks, only 21 percent used a mix of formats.

Both surveys focused on respondents within the 18-35 age range, a group that is reputedly technologically savvy. Because of this, these results may be surprising.

However, with learning habits, it often comes to down to experience.

It’s likely that your current classes of freshmen and sophomores had some experience using some sort of device (whether laptop, tablet or other) during their previous educational careers. They may even have used them extensively in the classroom, and it’s also probable that they had access to a computer, smartphone or tablet at home.

Whether they used those devices to study is an entirely different matter. (Although those that did are 8 percent more likely to prefer a digital format.)

Setting up a functioning digital program in a K-12 school has historically been quite an undertaking. First of all, there’s the cost of the device to consider. Will the school provide them or will students bring their own? Is the school’s wireless network up to the challenge of supporting all of the anticipated traffic? What platform or platforms will the course materials be compatible with?

And so on.

Because of these and other factors, implementing digital programs in K-12 schools has been a slowly growing phenomenon, instead of the sea change that was initially called for .

Why Now?

Should your store make a case for adopting digital now?

Yes, and here’s why:

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Because, within the next four years, you may have an entire student body that learned how to study on an iPad or a Chromebook.

Because these students will be accustomed to the convenience of being able to carry their course materials wherever they go, without the physical strain of carrying twenty pounds of textbooks.

Because providing access to educational technology, including digital content and devices, may improve learning outcomes.

Additional Benefits of Digital Content

According to students who typically purchase digital course materials, the primary reasons are:

  • eTextbooks are often cheaper to purchase or rent.
  • Carrying a single device is convenient and lightweight.
  • The ability to search and annotate within the text makes it easier to study.
  • It’s environmentally friendly (no wasted paper).
  • It’s easier to read.

Is This the End of Print?

There will always be a market for print course materials. Some students simply prefer the feeling of holding a “real” book, while others will continue to want to recoup some of their investment by selling their books back at the end of the term. It’s likely, though, that over the next few years more students will choose a hybrid approach, and purchase increasing quantities of digital course materials in addition to traditional print textbooks.

Will your store be ready?

About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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