E-book reading among Spanish university students

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PINTO, M., POULIOT, C., CORDÓN, J.A. The Electronic Library, 2014, 32 , 4, pp. 473 – 492

Purpose

This paper aims to show data about Spanish higher-education students’ usage, habits and perceptions regarding reading on new digital media to show the potential future of electronic books (e-books) and reading mobile devices (e-readers, tablets, cell phones, etc) in academia. It explores whether demographics and academic factors might influence e-book reading habits and attitudes and university students’ opinions about e-books vs print books. REWIL 2.0, a purpose-built research tool, was applied to measure students’ opinions about digital reading in different media and formats, considering their academic context, at the confluence of analog and digital materials and learning. Likewise, REWIL 2.0 detects who are e-book readers (eBR) and who are not and produces a statistics indicator to identify five categories of eBRs by their frequency of e-book reading. This research gathered 745 online surveys between April and July 2010 in 15 degree programs at the University of Granada: Spanish philology, English philology, history, mathematics, chemistry, environmental sciences, education, library and information science, law, medicine, biology, dentistry, computer systems, architecture and civil engineering.

Design/methodology/approach

This present study is a transversal applied research, where 745 students were surveyed from 15 different academic disciplines offered at the University of Granada (Spain), representing the five main discipline areas. The survey was carried out by means of a structured online survey, with REWIL 2.0 research tool. To ensure internal consistency of correlation between two different survey items designed to measure e-book reading frequency, Pearson’s r reliability test was applied. Likewise, Persons’ chi-squared statistics were applied to test the hypotheses and to detect if significant correlation existed between academic disciplines and e-book reading frequency measured through a Likert scale.

Findings

The present research is motivated by our interest in discovering what effect the current technological maelstrom and the rapid growth of new portable digital reading devices in the Spanish university environment are having on students’ lives, and the extent to which students have adopted new reading technologies. Their first aim is to establish who is reading e-books in the University? A second aim is to answer the following question: is the academic discipline a determinant factor in e-book reading habits and students’ attitudes about it? The authors began by considering the following hypotheses: University students’ attitudes to e-book reading and the way they use them will be determined by the scientific discipline they study. Students of humanities, social sciences and law will prefer to read traditional format books (printed paper), while students of experimental sciences, health and technical courses will prefer reading e-books. Students’ preferences will be determined by their previous reading experiences.

Originality/value

The main objective of the present study is to learn whether there are any notable differences among university students from distinct disciplines with regard to their attitude and behavior toward e-books. The authors, therefore, set out to identify the segment of the student population that does not read e-books yet (non-eBRs) from those who have already read at least one (eBRs), and within this segment, the readers that have read e-books recently (recent eBRs); find out how frequently university students are reading in different formats (paper and digital), document types (book, written press, etc.) and languages (textual, multimodal, etc.) identify what channels are used to access e-books; find out university students’ opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of reading e-books as compared to traditional print books; and identify the types of improvements or changes to the design–production–distribution–reception chain that students consider might help extend e-book reading.