Textbook Survey: Ebooks, Affordability & Access

Recently, the CTL Portal Manager, Dean of CTL,  and Dr. Randall Fameree  of the Anatomy and Physiology Department conducted a brief survey of his students to answer the following questions:

  • How does the cost of the textbook for this class impact students? Do they make decisions about this class based upon the textbook? Would they choose an e-book, if it was a more affordable option?
  • Do they buy the textbook and if so, from where?

35 students completed the survey (Download quantitative data here). Additional OER resources from us can be found here.

General conclusions from the survey:

  • Although expensive, the A&P students felt the book was worth the purchase and because it was used for 2 classes, it was deemed as less expensive overall.
  • In general, the A&P students  would not choose an ebook over a print copy – ease of use seemed to be the biggest factor: the ability to highlight and take notes seemed to be the biggest factor, followed by portability  and access

Of those who responded:

94% purchased the required textbook needed for the class. Of the 6% who did not purchase the book, 1 was given the book by a friend; 3 indicated that they rented the book, bringing the total to 97% of those who had the required textbook needed. As a followup question for future surveys, it would be interesting to ask if the students if they had the required textbook on the first day of class.

Given the choice between a digital copy of the textbooks:

  • 5.7% preferred a digital copy
  • 5.7 % had no preference of electronic over digital
  • 80% preferred print over digital

If the digital were cheaper, would you choose it?

  • 74% No
  • 27% Yes

Comments broken into themes related to choice of print or digital:

Depends upon the class

  • It would depend upon the class. Heavier classes = less likely to get electronic textbooks
  • Not for A&P class. I wrote all in my note and will keep it throughout my nursing career. I would [use an ebook] for certain classes though.


  • I do not like to study just by reading; I like to actually have something to hold, highlight, and stick notes in. I also think that a textbook is more readily accessible and convenient.
  • I just like having a book. I wrote & highlighted all in my book. I will use my book as a resource in the future.
  • I like to be able to highlight specific text & write notes in the margins.
  • I feel like it would be more difficult to make marks on an etext an actual textbook
  • I have a harder time focusing on-screen. I highlight, under line my text thoroughly. Also not very good with technology.
  • I like having the physical book. I do a lot of highlighting, writing, and book marking in my textbooks. I find it easier with a printed book.
  • I personally like to have a book that I can highlight, make notes and visually & physically use.
  • More beneficial to me to be able to highlight/write in the physical book
  • I like to underline as I read and make notes in the margins. I find it difficult to read from a computer screen.
  • I might [underlined] if it were significantly [underlined] chepaer, but I use my book to write in. It is helpful for me to make notes in pictures, charts, and text.
  • It really just depends — I prefer having a printed copy while reading and studying so that I can make notes, highlight, etc.

Physical/Tactile feel

  • I though the book was great. I just like to have a “book” in hand. I can’t imagine taking this class w/o the book. I thought the book was a great resource.
  • Maybe [choose a digital version] after trying it
  • I prefer a textbook
  • Just because I like how a physical book feels in my band
  • I like to have a hard copy and something I can carry around and write notes on
  • I like to actually have a physical book that I can write in and make notes
  • Unless much cheaper, I would prefer to own a written text.


  • I have no way to easily transport digital copy. Laptop is broken and smart phone is too small. It is also easier to write & highlight printed books.
  • This really a maybe; it would depend if I thought printing one/some pages at home would be cheaper; Could I afford the ink?
  • Digital is AWFUL!! NO!
  • I purchased the etext as well because it came with some other online resources. I found the print textbook to be my preferred choice over the extext. I would say that I only used the electronic version 5% vs. 95% printed.

Where did you buy your textbook (33 answers)?

  • Campus Bookstore: 14
  • Amazon.com:9
  • Chegg online (rentals): 4
  • Ebay: 2
  • Craigslist: 1
  • East Campus Bookstore: 1
  • “Like Chegg”: 1
  • Online: 1

What technology do you have that you could use to access digital/electronic books (All that apply):

  • Mobile/phone (defined as a “smart phone” with internet access): 77%
  • Laptop/Netbook: 69%
  • Desktop computer: 46%
  • ATC Computer labs (Library, K Lab, etc.): 46%
  • Tablet: 29%
  • Computer at other public space (public library, etc.): 26%
  • Family/friend computer: 9%
  • Only use technology provided by ATC on campus: 0%

Where do you access the internet for class or school related work? (All that apply):

  • Home: 97%
  • ATC Campus: 51%
  • Public library: 17%
  • Work: 14%
  • Family/friend home: 6%
  • Other: 6%


  • By work, means use my mobile phone to access downloaded powerpoints and listen to recorded lectures.
  • I mostly use my laptop but its a few years old & doesn’t have Microsoft products
  • I typically use my home internet service for the majority of school related work. I have used the ATC computer lab a few times to check for messages but not very often.
  • Mobile Internet

Did the cost of textbooks impact your class choice?

  • No: 94%
  • Yes: 6%


  • Yes, it was expensive, but I would never have considered not buying it for class.
  • If using the book for 2 classes, it is very reasonable. If you can not afford a book, but can an “ebook” how do they afford the device (tablet/laptop) to bring to class?
  • Only because I receive Pell Grant 7 Hope Grant. When I bought the book I had to choose between using some of my Pell money (450$ cost of book) for groceries or to succeed in school &  sacrifice a little bit.
  •  I can’t take too many classes at a time if I have to buy a new book for each class.

Other comments about cost/affordability include:

  • When I first bought the textbook I thought it was overpriced, but looking back I feel it was well worth the money. Textbook was used a LOT.
  • If I had known an older edition could be used, I would have done that.
  • Great purchase!
  • I purchased a used book online (ebay) for less than the used books were being sold for at the campus bookstore. I was fortunate and found one in good condition.
  • I got mine off of amazon and it was much cheaper than the bookstore and in perfect condition.
  • So EXPENSIVE!! :-{ [frowny face]
  • $150
  • I would have taken the class regardless of the cost of textbook, since it was required for the program I want to apply for. It was an added bonus that I was able to use the same book for part 1 and 2 of the same course. However, had I know that not all classes required the buying of the two lab notebooks, I might have saved some money.
  • The book for this course was expensive; however, I liked that it was used for both [classes]. Also, I honestly think this is a great textbook with many helpful pictures, examples, and applications in clinical practice. I’m very happy with this purchase and plan to keep this as a future resource. a

Other comments:

  • I choose to take this class separate from all others because I had to take it over the summer. It is already a difficult class in a normal timeframe. With summer being shorter, I felt it was better to take this class by itself.

Enclosed below are the quantitative data, along with a summary of the  qualitative data.

Download (PDF, 58KB)

Survey complied/blog post — Robin Fay, Portal Manager, CTL

More OER resources from us