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Remember When Ebooks were all the Rage? A Look at Student Preferences for Printed Text versus Electronic

Vicki L Gregory, Kiersten L Cox
InSITE 2017 , 2017

In many public and academic libraries, ebooks are being pushed on users mainly due to budgetary and space needs even though readers are still showing a strong preference for print books.

Many librarians are focusing on how to get readers to use ebooks when they really should be considering how ebooks fit into learning, whether formal or self-learning, and the preferences that readers show for one format over the other. Library collections since the 1960s have generally focused on a strategy of “give them what they want,” but in the case of ebooks, there seems to be a trend of trying to force ebooks on users.

A survey was given to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of South Florida.

Our research findings fit with current data that shows a decline in popularity of ebooks and a continued popularity of print books. We would like to convince members of the academy to think about this issue and question the ebooks plans that libraries have on their campuses.

Both undergraduates and graduates strongly preferred print over electronic in the case of textbooks and books for leisure reading. Only journal articles were preferred in electronic form, but from the comments it was evident that articles were printed out and the student used the print copy for studying and research purposes. Reference books were split 50/50 in preference for electronic versus print.

Librarians and teachers cannot assume that just because students use their smart-phones that they prefer ebooks.

More research is needed on this subject before libraries become too dependent on purchasing large ebook packages from vendors rather than the selection of print books.

Now that this paper has advanced our understanding of user preferences for books versus ebooks, we wish to expand our research to faculty and widen the geographical areas covered.

books, ebooks, textbooks, user preferences

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