May 18, 2022

Highlights: New Findings from Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education Survey

A few highlights from the latest report (Part 1) in the annual Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education Survey published by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), 

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Highlights From New Report

Now in its fourth year, this study provides trend information and analysis about the ways the traditional print textbook is changing to reflect technological innovation and (or sometimes in spite of) student preferences. Each volume is published annually in two parts: the first each February, reflecting surveys completed the previous fall, and the second each July, reflecting surveys completed in the spring.

Nadine Vassallo, Project Manager, Research & Information said, “Today’s students are becoming increasingly flexible about their course materials selections, and more open to new product innovations than ever before. BISG’s Student Attitudes survey provides the data, analysis, and guidance publishers need to anticipate challenges and identify emerging opportunities in the higher ed space.”

New findings from Volume 4, Report 1, include the following major shifts in content use trends:

  • From October 2010 to October 2013, the percentage of students who report that their courses require “no formal course materials” increased from 4% to 11%. This change in perception suggests students are becoming more flexible about what they consider “required,” and increasingly substitute alternative materials for those assigned by faculty – or avoiding purchase altogether.
  • Required content as reported by students continues to evolve away from one or more core textbooks toward new digital alternatives, although open educational resources have yet have to show an impact.
  • Despite low sales numbers, interest in tablet versions of textbooks is quite strong, especially among students who have already purchased an e-book. Students prefer tablet versions of textbooks over PDF replicas or even print textbooks, assuming at least a 25% lower cost. This finding supports other research suggesting students’ willingness to adopt digital formats increases significantly with exposure.
  • Some 17% of students reported renting textbooks for their courses. This is down slightly from almost 19% last spring. In October 2013, about 75% of respondents reported they were either somewhat or very satisfied with their rental experience.

For the first time, the Student Attitudes survey was supplemented by interviews with higher education administrators from leading institutions including the University of Kentucky, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University System of Ohio. This panel of was asked to comment on some of the key strategies, issues, and opportunities they face as instructional technologies continue to evolve for a more contextual analysis of the trends in content delivery.

Source: Book Industry Study Group

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.