Boundless Report: Ushering in a Post-Textbook World

Today, Boundless is releasing our report Ushering in a Post-Textbook World to highlight college students’ transition from traditional to digital learning resources. We surveyed nearly 650 college students about how they study, the high cost of textbooks, and exactly how they feel about the move to digital alternatives. We found that digital learning alternatives are quickly becoming as popular, and even overcoming, traditional resources. These trends are leading us closer to a post-textbook world, where physical reference materials give way to digital resources that deliver better education with greater access.

Download a copy of our report, or read a summary below.

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Ushering in a Post-Textbook World

Higher education is traditionally defined by the tools its students and professors use to master subjects. However, our vision of education must shift as digital alternatives are quickly becoming as popular — even overcoming — traditional resources such as textbooks.

Students are finding and choosing digital alternatives to traditional textbooks that help them learn better, with fewer pain-points and at a lower cost. This movement will eventually lead to a post-textbook world, where physical reference materials give way to digital resources that deliver better education with greater access. Boundless recently surveyed nearly 650 college students about how they study, the high cost of textbooks, and exactly how they feel about the transition to digital alternatives.

Key Findings

Digital tools are surpassing traditional resources

Students are moving toward digital, even where handwritten or traditional resources once dominated. Already, 92% of students prefer online database research compared to print. 61% of students prefer to study via a digital quiz over a quiz handwritten from their notes. Consider this: many students may not even keep handwritten notes. A near-50/50 split was reported when asked about preference between digital and handwritten/traditional for the following resources: flashcards, notes and textbooks.

When considering that digital resources have been on the market a relatively short time, a narrowing gap between digital and handwritten resources shows clear momentum in the shift toward digital.

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Students say digital resources bring inherent value over traditional textbooks.

Students are drawn to digital resources for two key “extremely valuable” assets: their low-cost nature (80%) and portability (74%). Another 82% of students describe interactive content, such as quizzes and flashcards, as valuable assets to digital alternatives to traditional textbooks.

While cost may drive students to seek digital alternatives, content and functionality increase a student’s likelihood to opt for digital versus traditional.

Tight budgets push students to digital alternatives

59% of students report using their semester budget on textbooks. When asked if they could save $150 per semester on textbooks, the top three budget items where these funds would go were: tuition (40%), transportation (38%), and school supplies (31%).

Clearly, students look to save money to keep up with living expenses. This behavior increases the likelihood that they will seek digital alternatives for traditional resources such as textbooks.

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Conclusion

Overwhelmingly, students are open to adopting digital alternatives to traditional resources because they provide value on price, content, and portability. These are all areas where traditional textbook publishers have stopped innovating and fallen flat.

Our findings suggest that students have already adapted to cost and access barriers with behaviors not supported by the traditional textbook market. We are at a new precipice in education, one where digital innovation will define the way our students work, learn, and interact — all in a post-textbook world.

To read the entire survey, download the report here or view it below.

  • blendedlibrarian

    “Already, 92% of students prefer online database research compared to print”

    This statistic is somewhat misleading. When it comes to database research, there are virtually no print indexes (you can’t really call them databases) left. So you can’t really prefer something that doesn’t exist. I’d like to know what those other 8% are actually using to do research with print? The World Book Encyclopedia that’s sitting on the shelf at their public library? Otherwise, I am totally with you on the post-textbook world.

  • Yasmine Bachir

    Finishing University, I can understand the difficulty with textbook portability. They are heavy and you need a lot of them. It’s no wonder students steer towards digital alternatives. They also save so much on money by doing this. My sister seems to buy a new text book every week (or so it seems) and the collection grows and she carries these around to every lecture. I really believe going digital is clever, makes sense and will save on money and ensure you avoid back pain. Great read, thanks Jessica x

  • James Taylor

    Criminology & a criminal justice now a day is a very ongoing topic in many online educational forums & universities as well due to the current Geo situation. Many online educational resources providing useful stuff regarding this as well.
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  • Jeff Johnson

    Post-textbook world might be not a precise definition of what’s happening. And I don’t think that we should say no to all our writings. Though they may not all be written by hand and there are many Essays Solutions available.