eBook Sales Drop and Print Resurgence on Campus

We've been focused on the recent article by the American Association of Publishers that states that eBook sales declined for the first time.  That doesn't mean eBooks are going away by any means. We use tablets here, primarily for searching and reading news articles.

What's interesting to us, and for the industry is that this decline in eBooks is coming at a time with a fresh discussion about how the brain absorbs data from print vs screens. Fresh data on the Neuroscience of print was compiled by Forbes in this article. What we are now seeing is a quantification of all the subjective terms #printgeeks have been using to describe why they prefer print: "feels real" "tactile" etc.   The science behind a print advantage is growing.

These two data points are converging.  A decline in eBooks and a recognition that print has distinct features beneficial to memory. What does this mean for Campus? The assumption that swapping digital formats for print may not be a '"like for like" exchange to save a trip to the bookstore.

We've observed that there has been a reckless adoption of digital formats in academia without any consideration of the impact on the final product: learning.  We are now well beyond having taught an entire college class using iPads and other digital media. Are they any smarter? Did they learn more? The science behind how the brain absorbs info from different formats is indicating benefits from reading from print.

The tech geeks will tell the educators that they can save money for students by putting docs online, knee-jerk environmentalists will nod in agreement saying it will save the planet (False: paper is renewable and North America is a net grower of trees.) But what value is a switch away from print & paper if students don't learn as much from those formats?

What we should be seeing now is a resurgence of print on campus for the exact reasons students are there. To learn. The Open Textbook movement is gaining momentum, which will place the choice of format in the hands of the user: the Student.