Final Report BCM 210


I would like to thank my tutor Stephanie Hanson, for her helpful feedback while carrying out my research and putting away time for my fellow students and I to carry out our focus groups and surveys.

To Kate Bowles, I would like to thank you for all the work you put into your lectures. Not only have they helped throughout my research process, they have remained an enjoyment to attend.

Finally to all of my fellow students who sacrificed their time to fill out my survey, I thank you. Special thanks to the six students who participated in my focus group. I couldn’t have done it without you.



Ever since e-books arrived on the scene, forecasters have said year after year that it’s only a matter of time before they ultimately edge print books out altogether. It is easy to see why so many people/organizations would make the change from print to digital, but are they making the jump too soon?  There are a number of reports that have been carried out that are showing people still prefer print over its digital competitor, so much in fact that almost two thirds of people are happy to pay more for a print copy than an e-book. My report asks students at the University of Wollongong, if they prefer the old format of printed material, or if they have moved on to the digital equivalent.


A total of 37 students at the University of Wollongong completed a 5 minute survey conducted to measure student preference for e-textbooks and printed version, studying productivity, and likelihood of purchase:



surv3 - Copy (2)


Of the 37 students who took part in the survey, almost half of students preferred to use both print and digital formats. With print being the second most preferable (38%),and digital being the least preferred (16%) of the three. Almost three quarters (73%) preferred to study from a textbook over the digital equivalent(19%), and well over three quarters (84%) of students said that they would be more likely to purchase a print book over its digital equivalent.

What do others say?

In 2013 company Hewlett Packard asked a similar question to the students of San Jose State University. Hewlett Packard surveyed a total of 527 students to measure student preference for e-textbooks and printed version.

Of the 527 respondents, two-thirds of which have used both e-textbooks and printed version, 57% said they prefer print over the digital equivalent, whereas only 21% of those polled favoured the e-version. The remaining 21% stated that they preferred both formats.

The survey also revealed the reasons the students preferred print. “Ease of use” coming in at number one with 54%, “note-taking ability” had 35%, and “physical feel of book” 11%. For those that preferred the e-version, factors cited include “light weight” (34%), “convenient access” (23%) and “search function” (16%). Surprisingly “Cost” was only cited by 15% of the respondents as a factor in purchasing the e-version.

Focus group

A focus group of 6 University students studying Communication and Media was conducted, with five out of six students  preferring print over digital. The sixth student had no preference stating:

“I find that I concentrate more if I’m reading print, but sometimes its easier on the computer, because you can just have it open next to a word document.”

When students were asked asked why they preferred to use print,they responded, with these being the most popular reasons:

-Its easier to mark pages

-Its always there if you need it you don’t have to search it up again on the computer.

– Its more tangible.

-You feel like your doing something.

-Reading off a screen, it feels like less is being absorbed.

-Being able to see how far you’ve got to go until the end of the book.

Student’s were then asked about there study habits, specifically if they found they were more easily distracted when studying off a screen, and not out of a book. All students found themselves getting more easily distracted studying off a screen, the most common reason being the temptation to go on to social media, and other web sights. One student commented:

“I prefer to have a book and the computer so I could just write from the book right into word.”

What do others say?

Critical thinking is a major goal in a majority of subjects at UOW so it is important that students are able to do so as easily as possible. The report suggests that instead of deep reading when people read off a screen they tend to hyper read. Which postmodern literary critic, Katherine Hayles defines in her book, How We Think, as “a strategic response to an information-intensive environment, aiming to conserve attention by quickly identifying relevant information, so that only relatively few portions of a given text are actually read.”

This is backed up by research carried out at James Madison University, which showed that readers skim eBook pages quickly and repeatedly, while eye-tracking software shows paper books are read line-for-line. The result is that skimming the content of eBooks “takes longer and requires more effort to reach the same level of understanding.”


What this means?

My research suggests that students at the University of Wollongong prefer to use a mixture of digital and print material, with print being the more preferable digital. Interestingly though almost three quarters of students prefer studying from print material, finding themselves much more likely to procrastinate while studying on a digital format. These trends are backed up by other research that has been done on a much larger scale; my results show a trend that is important in terms of the University. With 84% of students finding they get easily distracted studying off a screen and one of the popular reasons for preferring print was that students felt like they were absorbing less information.

Further research

Further research, on a much larger scale into student preference for study material, and how study patterns are impacted by the format of study material, needs to be carried out in order to get sufficient data to answer my research question/s.  By doing this lecturers and other academic staff will be able to take this research into account when creating subjects, and giving readings to the class. This research should also be taken into account when purchasing new books for the library, and inform whether or not to invest into e-books further.




Naomi S. Baron. (2015). Why Reading On A Screen Is Bad For Critical Thinking. Available: Last accessed 25/4/16.

Elizabeth Hoffecker Moreno, Kendra Leith, Kim Wilson. (2015). The Lean Research Framework Principles for Human-Centered Field Research. Available: Last accessed 25/4/16

Teri Tan. (2014 ). College Students Still Prefer Print Textbooks . Available: Last accessed 28/3/16.

Dr.David Daniel, Dr.Krisztina Jakobsen. (2016). E-textbooks Effectiveness Studied. Available: Last accessed 28/3/16.









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