E-Reading On The Rise as Campus Bookstores Wane

(Photo: Jisc, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Jisc, Creative Commons)

New research from Pew has found that reading books on cell phones is rapidly increasing in popularity, growing from 5% of Americans reporting participation in the activity in 2011 to 13%. In addition, 11% of Americans who have not gone to college stated they read books on cell phones, which the research suggests shows that people with lower incomes are more likely to only use mobile internet access.

A total of 1,520 Americans were surveyed for a month beginning in March. While the typical American reads four books per year, the reported average was closer to 12.

Survey results show 6% of respondents saying they only read books in digital form, while 38% said they read solely in print. However, 28% said they read a combination of digital and printed materials.

Meanwhile, earnings information obtained by The Observer from Penguin Random House and Hachette both show a 10% decline in revenue due to a drop in e-books sales, writes Brady Dale. That drop came after a 25-40% increase on the cover price of e-books by major publishers.

At the same time, schools such as Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York, are partnering with online retailers such as Amazon in order to bring textbooks to their students in digital form. Now the official book retailer for the school, students can purchase texts directly on Amazon and have them shipped to campus.

In place of textbooks, the campus store now carries things such as adult coloring books, university-branded polos and sweatshirts, and an assortment of novels. Meanwhile, the remainder of the store contains spirit wear and school supplies, while a Starbucks is expected to open soon.

The Queens College bookstore has also gone digital, requiring students to order books online and have them shipped to campus.

"There are certainly some growing pains in getting used to it for many students," Dr. Rockman said. "I think the human condition is not to really love change."

The change comes as an effort to make textbooks more affordable for students by allowing them to comparison shop online rather than pay the single price available at the college bookstore. Plans are in the works to create an Amazon area for students to have their books delivered there, where they will then be able to pick them up from storage lockers.

Ripley MacDonald, director of Amazon Student Programs, said the company is also the primary source of course materials for Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Neither school has a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Additional schools are using Amazon as a supplementary course materials provider. MacDonald said the company has opened pickup locations at 12 universities since 2015 and plans to have 17 locations by the end of the year, writes Arielle Dollinger for The New York Times.

Schools that partner with Amazon are said to earn 2% of sales from the online retailer.

However, there are drawbacks to using an online retailer for textbooks. Students may be sent the wrong book, while those on financial aid must determine how to purchase books and obtain a reimbursement pass.

"If they save five bucks and have a miserable week because they can't even get the damn thing, what good is that?" he said. "It's not that people can't figure these things out, it's just a hassle."

The Amazon area will eventually be able to handle student questions to make the process a bit easier.

09 23, 2016
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