Digital Device Adoption Among Students is Still Growing – Why is #eTextbook Adoption in Single Digits?

There are approximately 17 – 20 million Higher Ed students in the United States currently.  Every day we hear about how this generation of students represent the ‘tipping point’; the inflection of where technology’s promise and its adoption intersect.  However, when you dig just a little into the numbers it seems as if eTextbooks can’t get going.


The eye catching infographic below, “A Look at Students Using eTextbooks” provides us with interesting information about those students who have already adopted eTextbooks.  However, it makes no mention of the actual adoption rate of ALL students when it comes to eTextbooks.  As of August 2012 only 3% of the 17+ million Higher Ed students in the United States have adopted eTextbooks.


Last year Apple introduced its ‘revolutionary’ eTextbook strategy for the iPad that really wasn’t so revolutionary.  Its partners in eTextbook creation (besides of course iPad users themselves) and distribution are among the old guard in paper based publishing.  To be sure … there are numerous eTextbook providers (a majority by the way who are financially backed by those same ‘old guard’ publishers) who have begun to distribute textbooks and other digital course materials for consumption on the numerous devices we hear each day students are adopting …. smartphones, laptops, tablets and other digital hardware … those that make up BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  But still – adoption is at the 3% -4% level now.


smartphone adoption students

The first statistic below assures us that “98% of students own a digital device”.  Placing the statistic in an iPhone frame suggests, 98% own a smartphone.  However, the data is ambiguos at best because its really 98% of the students who have adopted eTextbooks who own a digital device; and, the type of digital device is not specified. That said adoption of smartphones (phones and tablets) among college students has risen significantly over the past three years.  As the chart above clearly states growth is expected to rise to just over 90% in just three years.

Further down the infographic are other seemingly ‘lets all jump on the bandwagon’ metrics that we all can agree bodes well for the prediction made by the president of McGraw-Hill Education in his August 3 post about a Digital Deadline imperative   One stat that jumps out is that ONLY 2% of those that have adopted eTextbooks (roughly 12,000) have accessed digital text on a smart phone.  18% have used digital materials on tablets; a significantly higher rate but still just 120,000 students out of a possible 12.8 MILLION who can access them now.

Why isn’t adoption greater than this?  The numbers don’t seem to add up?  How are we going to get to a tipping point in 2 and a half years when the availability of digital devices and the adoption of the materials that can provide great benefit to students are not meeting the potential.


I personally don’t believe that ALL course material will ever be 100% digitally accessible; nor do I believe that 100% of the students who use digital devices will want to access materials digitally.  Personally, I still like the feel of a newspaper and the spine of a book.  But 3% seems artificially low …. almost like something is holding adoption back.  What is it and … WHY?


3 Responses to Digital Device Adoption Among Students is Still Growing – Why is #eTextbook Adoption in Single Digits?

  1. Pingback: Digital Device Adoption Among Students is Still Growing – Why is #eTextbook Adoption in Single Digits? | Branding Higher Education |

  2. Pingback: Education and Instructional Technology Tweet Wrap for the Week of 10-21-13

  3. Pingback: If Digital Device Adoption Among Students is Gr...

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