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Evaluation of Student Preference for E-Books and Physical Books

Info: 3970 words (16 pages) Dissertation
Published: 1st Dec 2021

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Tagged: Education


The student’s preferences between electronic books and traditional books were examined in the university foundation course. 45 students were selected randomly from diverse nationalities. Approximately half of the student used both electronic books and traditional books while others preferred electronic books or traditional books exclusively. The survey conducted takes around 4 minutes to complete and it gives a clear understanding of the persons opinion. Results demonstrated that both books have their value.


As technology rapidly develops over the years, people gravitate to the convenience of electronic devices for instance eBooks. Compared to their equivalent traditional books, they have many advantages such as portability. In addition, the rise in eBook’s popularity is accompanied with other aspects such as ease of use, increased interaction and accessibility and alternatives regarding to fees and associated costs.

This report is focused on international students, studying in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It aims to find current preferences of eBooks and traditional books and find out whether the digital versions could outweigh the conventional copies and eventually replace them entirely. This paper attempts to find the possible answers by studying the reading habits of INTO students. As a part of this study a variety of textbook options were explored and student buying patterns were studied. Furthermore, factors like environment and background which might influence the results were examined. The results were collected by means of google forms which is a survey tool in google, students could respond, and the data will be presented automatically.

Most studies or reports have limitations. The survey that was conducted was done by students that were randomly chosen at the university reception. Most of the people who have done it are from the Middle East or Asians, as well as, mostly those who completed it are doing the same course, business and management. In addition, most of the students speak English as their second language so some students misinterpret the intent questions. Therefore, the results cannot represent the global trend but reflects partial preferences of students at university.

Key Terms

Electronic Books: electronic books, also known as eBooks, is a book that consists of texts (novels, textbooks, magazines), images or both. It can be found in most electronic devices such as computers.

Traditional Books: traditional books are printed books that can be found in libraries and bookstores.

Background Information

The history of books has begun back when the development of writing started. Development of writing caused various inventions. For instance, paper and printing. As many progressions happened, traditional books have come into the market and became a huge part of people’s lives.

In 1971, the first eBook was invented by a student called Michael Hart. Michael Hart graduated from University of Illinois. Hart was granted the access to major computing power which lead to the electronic book existence. eBooks became a trend when traditional books were sold on websites using ecommerce systems. Nowadays, people are tempted to buy electronic books over physical books as it is cheaper in the long run.

People argue that civilization progresses through technology as the way people read has changed.


Collection of Data

There are many different techniques used to get results about a certain subject. One of the many ways is creating a survey/questionnaire that will be randomly done by people who represent the population in order to have accurate outcomes. Surveys are good at identifying patterns, categorizing and being able to differentiate and generalize.

The use of questionnaire is a convenient way of gathering information regarding the topic as it solves issues such as language barrier as accents are hard to understand sometimes. This study is concentrated on international students, studying in the U.K. It intends to find current preferences of students regarding eBooks and traditional books and find out whether the digital versions could outweigh the conventional copies and eventually substitute them entirely.

Drafting of Questionnaire

A meeting was held exclusively to create a survey that will be easily understood. The purpose of the questionnaire is to know the preferences of INTO students, whether they prefer eBooks or traditional books or both. There are a few factors that were taken into consideration, such as:

  • Age: usually those who have similar opinions are around the same age. It was considered for one reason: to know if it may affect the results or not.
  • Course: studies show that those who study a certain course might see things differently which is why students’ courses were considered.
  • Purpose: Before conducting the survey, a research was done regarding electronic books and traditional books. Based on the information available online, a couple of important questions in connection with the topic were formed in order to know people’s opinion towards the battle of books that is going on in our modern day.

First overall, the survey was created by using google forms. An easy way to type out questions and choose the format needed. The survey that was conducted aims to find out people’s preference/reading habits between electronic books and traditional books.

The survey included 14 questions that were divided into two subtopics; getting to know the gender, nationality and course of the student filling out the survey, as well as, knowing their opinion towards electronic books and traditional books. The people were randomly chosen; whoever was available in the INTO building reception was approached and asked to fill it in. The size of the sample was 45 people around the ages 16 and 20.

In the beginning, the chosen group for the project gathered together and brainstormed ideas about the battle of the books and how the effect people’s lives, and which one is preferred by different communities around the world.


Figure 1

Most of the respondents were 18 years old (38%) while 19 was the second largest totaling at 24% while 16% of respondents were 17, 13% were 20 and 9% was 16.

Figure 2

As shown above, there were 19 females that filled in the survey (42%). On the other hand, there are 26 males (58%).

Figure 3

The graph above shows that, there is a wide range of nationalities: Bahraini (4 people), Jordanian (1), Caymanian (1), Saudi (5), Thai (1), Kuwaiti (8), Chinese (9), Indian (3), Hong Kongese (2), Tanzanian (1), Omani (3), Lebanese (1), South Korean (2), Emirati (2), Ukrainian (1), Russian (1).

Figure 4

The respondents from the INTO students were from all courses at into Business and management (21), Humanities and Social studies (5), Architecture (3), Biomedicine, Biology and, Pharmacy (11), Science, computing, engineering and mathematics (5).

Figure 5

The majority of the respondents (61%) believe that eBooks are overtaking while 23% disagree and 16 % are unsure.

Figure 6

As shown above, 49% of the people use both eBooks and traditional books to study while 33% use traditional books and 18% use eBooks only

Table 1

The most common answers

1) Because eBooks are more potable and easily accessible especially compared to going to the library to find a book you need to do research

2) Traditional-easier to read from eBook- easily accessible, easy to carry around

3) Books make me read without taking my attention away from the subject i am on

4) E books are much easier to access but traditional books give you a notebook hands on experience

5) It’s easier to handle and hold

6) Studying simply with regular books will always be better and more effective than electronic devices because distractions also

7) Depending on my studying material I use digital or printed books.

8) Convenient Print: too heavy to take to class

9) It’s easier to handle and hold

10) to find and traditional books have always been there

The above statements basically summarize the respondent’s opinion towards why they prefer traditional or electronic books.

Figure 7

49% of the respondents prefer reading novels and stories with traditional books while 22% use eBooks and 29% use both.

Table 2

The most common answers

1) They are cheaper online.

2) Everything is available online and there is no need to wastepaper

3) Because I enjoy the feeling of touching the paper and going through the pages it gives me more pleasure

4) Convenient, no need to buy at stores and cheaper

5) While e-books are easier to use than traditional books, they are harmful to my eyes.

6) Because people love the joy of buying/reading a book

7) I like seeing the drawings on books

8) both are efficient and easy access

9) Reading digitally gives me headaches

10) It depends what’s available at the moment

The results above are related to figure 7. The question is mainly asked to know whether students prefer reading novels online or prefer a hard copy. The answers above summarize student’s preference and why.

Figure 8

Figure 8 proves that 53% of the people bought both e books and traditional books in the past 12 months and 22% bought traditional books exclusively compared to 5% who bought eBooks exclusively and 20% didn’t buy either

Figure 9

Figure 9 states 85% of the respondents believe that eBooks affect our eyesight and 4% disagree while 11% are unsure

Figure 10

Figure 10 demonstrates that 71% believe that eBooks are more while only 12% prefer traditional books. As for the 17% they believe both of them are accessible.

Figure 11

The graph above displays that 93 % of the people believe that eBooks are more environmentally friendly while 7% disagree.

Figure 12

As indicated above, 57% of the people believe that the benefits of eBooks outweigh its flaws while 13% disagree and 29% are unsure

Summary of Key Results

Based on the results that are shown in the graphs both electronic and traditional books are favored by INTO students as each one has its disadvantages and advantages. Figure 6 and 8 show that both INTO students have neutral opinions between eBooks and traditional books.


Overall, mostly who completed the survey are 18 years old students. As shown in figure 1, 38% of those who answered are 18 years old. That shows that each person answering the question is responding based on their knowledge towards the subject or what they believe is true. For instance, some teenagers cannot reach the age that allow to have bank account, so they have to use printed book.

In figure 2 is based on the features of gender. It indicates that 58% of those who completed the survey are male while 42% were female which demonstrates that its diverse and both genders have answered questions based on their understanding. Normally, men tend to rely on convivence which are eBooks. By contrast, women often prefer having elegant hobbies so they can spend long hours reading printed novels. (Skilledatlife.com. 2019).

In figure 3, it shows the different kind of people with different nationalities which leads to different reading habits. Those who completed the survey are part of the INTO courses. There are students from all over the world, yet the sample won’t represent the population because mostly those who completed the survey speak English as their second language and some questions were misunderstood. For instance, in developed countries, eBooks are not accessible as high-tech items, e.g. Africa. Or in some other countries which have to face population aging, health problems make their citizens choose print books.

In figure 4, the graph shows the courses also affect reading habit. Some courses require students to take notes and use printed books such as the business and management course. While other courses such as engineering have everything digitally. Mostly those who responded are from the business and management course; some believe that each person is responding based on their knowledge and somehow, they would link it to their studies; those who attend the same course most likely have similar answers.

In figure 5, 61% believe that electronic books are overtaking tradition book. That said, it’s easy to say that nowadays more people rely on electronic books and some authors prefer it digitally for eco-friendly reasons that’s why hard copies are not found. Some students prefer traditional books when it comes to academic purposes for multiple reasons and one of many is that those traditional books are given to them because it is part of the program they are taking. Other students hate traditional books as they are very heavy and that electronic books are easily accessed, and a person can find the needed answers by typing out the question. Despite that, lecturers still push students to diversify their knowledge by reading different books related to the topic and some of those books are found online.

As for novels and stories, 49% of the students prefer traditional books as they are used to the smell, touch of paper and it is not harmful. Others argue that, both traditional and electronic can be harmful, it depends on the setting and lighting of the room the person is in. Clinton's inspection found that reading from paper normally led to better understanding and enhanced a person's performance on tests associated to the reading material. Basically, she found out that paper reading was found to be more efficient. (Clinton. 2019).

Moreover, 53% of the students bought eBooks and traditional books in the past 12 months while only 5% bought eBooks exclusively. In the first half of 2013, it accounted for around 20% of the market share of books sold in the USA and the UK, with over 1.7 million e-book titles available in each country (Wischenbart et al. 2013). However, in our modern day, printed materials still have their own benefits that cannot be met with e-reading, which notices the 4%-declined digital content sales in 2016 according to Nielsen Book Research UK. In addition, a study shows, that readers committed to physical books can give a sigh of relief, as new figures reveal that eBooks sales are falling while sales of paper books are growing – and the shift is being driven by younger generations. (Cain, 2019)

What’s above clearly represents that figure 6 and 7 mention different reasons to read. Some read for working/studying purposes and others for leisure. For example, academic reading forces readers to have knowledge about a certain subject. eBooks are convenient for them when they read and search information by clicking, copying and pasting. Moreover, to have a wide knowledge about a topic, students need to have access to a wide range of study materials. As for reading in a person’s leisure time, both eBooks and printed books are convenient, but it all depends on the persons preference, some people claim that eBooks will affect their eyesight or lead to headache.

In addition, 85% of INTO students believe that eBooks effect your eyesight. Using eBooks for long hours can lead to issues with your eyes. Those who have poor eyesight favor electronic screen as they can control the brightness. (Dr. Ghosheh. 2019).

Furthermore, 71% believe that eBooks are more accessible because they are easier to carry around and can be accessed online while only 12% prefer traditional books because not everyone can afford electronic devices and sometimes, they don’t have access right away. As for the 17% they believe both of them are accessible. eBooks are more portable than printed books. Printed books, especially hardbound editions, can be very heavy, while most modern eBook devices are lightweight. It's much easier to carry an eBook containing an entire library of titles than to bring even a few physical books that might not include all the information needed. (Owlcation. 2019).

In figure 11, the graph proves that 93 % of the people believe that eBooks are eco-friendlier while 7% disagree. Generally, eBooks are environmentally friendly, but it depends on the case. Both traditional and eBooks can pollute and waste the environment in different ways. The more the eBooks are used, the more it will run out of battery and be charged to lit up the screen which leads to pollution. (Kozlowski, M. and Kozlowski, M. 2019) People claim that producing electricity to run electronic devices is not ecofriendly. For example, coal for generation will release CO2. Also, with alternative energy such as wind, humans have to cut trees down to use such a vast space for installing the engines. While that, printed books sometimes can be recycled.

In figure 12, the graph indicates 57% of the people believe that the benefits of eBooks outweigh its flaws. Everything has its flaws but sometimes the benefits blur out the imperfections.


In conclusion, the results have shown that both electronic and traditional books are preferred by INTO students as each one has its benefits and drawbacks. It is clearly shown, that this study is concentrated on international students, studying in the U.K. The main purpose was to find out whether students prefer eBooks or traditional books or both, as well as, find out whether the digital versions could overshadow the conventional copies and ultimately replace them utterly. Throughout the study, the aim was identified by using by a questionnaire to find out the results.

The rise of eBooks at the INTO university was studied. However, this movement seems to be fluctuating rapidly. It depends on the persons preference and the way they were used to it back home. In this study, it was also observed that plenty of the students still preferred printed version of the book. The main reasons for their inclination included availability and ease of use in terms of taking notes, highlighting, and finding sections. However, technology is rapidly changing note taking and highlighting is quickly being integrated to some eBooks. Those who preferred eBooks were so inclined because of their low cost; how much the book was needed for a given course; and logistics in terms of portability and ease of access. The results indicate that traditional books will not vanish but in fact as they will be complimented by eBooks.

There are multiple ways to improve the study and have more accurate results that can be representative and interpreted in the future. For instance, the sample size can be significantly increased as it will more likely give precise results about INTO student’s preference. Moreover, to guarantee having a sample size that can represent students, the study should not be limited to INTO students exclusively but also incorporate many universities to have a general idea and the results can represent university students.

In addition, the questionnaire could have been distributed to students from all regions instead of distributing them randomly to students in the INTO reception. After considering the above improvements, the questionnaire can be developed to reduce the repetition of data in the results section.


Cain, S. (2019). Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations drive appetite for print. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/14/ebook-sales-continue-to-fall-nielsen-survey-uk-book-sales [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].

Clinton. (2019). Study: Paper Reading More Effective Than Screen Reading. [online] Available at: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/study-paper-reading-more-effective-than-screen-reading/4876473.html [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].

Kozlowski, M. and Kozlowski, M. (2019). Are reading eBooks on e-Readers environmentally friendly?. [online] Good e-Reader. Available at: https://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/are-reading-ebooks-on-e-readers-environmentally-friendly [Accessed 1 Nov. 2019].

(Dr. Ghosheh. 2019). Are eReaders bad for Your Eyes? | Digital Eye Strain. [online] Available at: https://www.laserforeyes.com/blog/are-e-readers-bad-for-your-eyes/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2019].

Owlcation. (2019). 10 Reasons Why eBooks Are Better Than Print. [online] Available at: https://owlcation.com/humanities/10-Reasons-Why-eBooks-are-Better-than-Print-Books [Accessed 1 Nov. 2019].

Search.proquest.com. (2019). Login Gateway. [online] Available at: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1664100941?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=12753 [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].

Skilledatlife.com. (2019). Why Hobbies Are Important. [online] Available at: http://www.skilledatlife.com/why-hobbies-are-important/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019].

(Wischenbart et al. 2013).

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