May 17, 2022

New National Association of College Stores Report Shows Increase in Use of Digital Course Materials

From NACS:

The preference for digital course materials by college students is gradually increasing according to the National Association of College Stores’ (NACS) twice-yearly survey of college students in the U.S. and Canada.

The study, Student Watch™: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials: 2015-2016 Report, notes that 40 percent of students still prefer a printed textbook format. However, 26 percent now prefer a print/digital bundle – a print textbook with a digital component such as online access and support – up from 24 percent a year ago. Convenience (56 percent) and lower cost (45 percent) remain the top reasons for purchasing digital.

Approximately six out of 10 students used at least one digital component, either an e-textbook or access code, during the fall 2015 term. In all, 75 percent of respondents said they have used a digital learning component at least once in their college careers, while 17 percent said they have not.

Student spending on the decline since 2007-08

The NACS report indicates that while average annual spending by students on required course materials increased slightly for the 2015-16 academic year due to weighting*, there has been a downward trend for nearly a decade, influenced by options such as rentals, digital, used, open educational resources and print-on-demand. Yet the number of course materials acquired over the past three years have remained steady at nine per year.

Student Spending on Course Materials (PRNewsFoto/NACS)

Student Spending on Course Materials (PRNewsFoto/NACS)

Students spent an average of $602* on their purchased and rented required course materials last school year, compared with $563 in 2014-15 and $701 in 2007-08.

Students value convenience of campus store for course materials

According to the study, campus stores collectively represent the largest share of course material purchases made during the 2015-16 year in both dollars and units. Of the 86% of students who purchased, four out of five students purchased at least one of their course materials from the on-campus resource, up from 68 percent the previous fall. Eight out of 10 students agree or strongly agree that having a physical location on campus that sells course materials is very important to them.

The campus store also dominates the rental market. During the fall term alone, of the 40 percent that rented course materials, more than half chose to rent either in-store or through the campus store website, an increase of six percent in frequency from the previous fall term.

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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.