Kno study points to sea change in digital textbooks

Faith Merino · July 27, 2011 · Short URL:

The findings: 25% of college students would forego sex rather than carry around physical textbooks

Kids really do say the darndest things…like digital textbooks are more important than sex.  But that’s what education software company Kno found when it commissioned a survey of college students and their attitudes towards digital textbooks.  Among the findings was the fact that a full quarter of college students surveyed said that they would give up sex if it meant never having to carry around another textbook again.  I’m guessing that just refers to sex during their college careers, and not…all sex, forever, since that would indicate a level of desperation that we should be addressing with federal funding.

You might recognize Kno as the company that had, at one time, promised a new e-reader just for textbooks.  It was fancy and promising, but its sky-high price-tag made it redundant.  The company’s focus has since shifted to educational software—specifically, an e-reader app for the iPad, with over 70,000 textbooks available to buy or rent for 30-50% off the original price.

The survey, which was conducted by Kelton Research, tackled the long debated question of whether or not college students really want digital textbooks in the first place.  Physical textbook rental services like BookRenter say no, that students prefer physical textbooks that they can hold in their hands, much the same way many of Netflix’s customers still prefer physical DVDs to the streaming-only service (but that’s partly because the streaming-only service is still pretty limited in its selection, but that’s another topic for another day).

But there’s just no denying the digital sea change, which has led Chegg to move into the digital realm and has prompted Amazon to launch a new digital textbook rental service of its own.

So how badly do students want digital textbooks?  More than half said that they would rather eat boxed macaroni and cheese for every meal for a month (ugh…) than carry around a semester’s worth of books.  Another 28% said that they would rather have their parents visit them at school every other weekend for an entire school year than carry around textbooks, and another 34% said they would rather stay home every Saturday night for a full semester to be rid of textbooks.

Additionally, a whopping 78% of students said they don’t feel their professors are doing enough to utilize technology to enhance their learning (I would have to agree here.  None of my English professors in college could even get the projectors to work).

Cost and organization is another big factor when it comes to the physical versus virtual books.  Of those surveyed, 45% said they’ve had to cut back on food in order to pay for their textbooks.  Another 46% have said they’ve gotten to class only to realize they forgot the specific book they needed, while 20% have lost their books and 16% have been thwarted by missing pages. 

But students are hopeful: 44% believe that in five years, college professors will no longer require physical textbooks. 

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BookRenter launched in 2008 and is dedicated to making education more affordable by allowing students to rent textbooks for up to 75% off the retail price. BookRenter's innovative pricing and operating systems provide students with the best price, highest quality books, and most flexible rental experience available today. Currently carrying over 3 million titles and serving thousands of students on over 5,000 U.S. campuses, BookRenter is one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley, growing at over 400% each year. BookRenter, with offices in San Mateo, California, is a private company that is funded by prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firms. To learn more about how to use BookRenter for all of your textbook rental needs, please visit