Students' perception on the adoption of an e-textbook (digital) as an alternative to the printed textbook

S.C. Osih, U.G. Singh


The debate between using printed textbooks (traditional) or e-textbooks (digital textbooks) is ongoing in the educational sector. Students are often required to buy textbooks in order to complete a course in the university, and this textbook can either be printed or e-textbook. Students who are usually reluctant to read a printed text or electronic texts are not familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of each text, respectively. Thus, the absence of information prompts the students to employ only one kind of text either digital or printed. The purpose of this research was to investigate whether university students prefer printed textbooks or digital textbooks (e-textbooks). The importance of the research is to understand why students are making the decision to use either traditional textbooks or e-textbooks and what makes them develop these preferences. The benefits that will be derived from this research will help illustrate what the students feel about traditional (printed) and e-textbooks (digital) and the choices that go into making that decision. This article is based on a study that was conducted at a university based in Midrand, South Africa. The study applied the mixed methods to analyse the relationship between perceived ease of use (PEOU), perceived usefulness (PU), attitude (ATT), complexity (CMX) and compatibility (CMP) on Behavioural intention to use. Questionnaire was the main data collection tool from as sample of 80 third year students from the Information Technology department of the university in question. The overall result led to the conclusion that students prefer e-textbook to the printed textbook.


printed textbook, e-textbook (digital textbook), perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, attitude, complexity, compatibility

Full Text:



Abdullah, Noorhidawati and Forbes Gibb. 2008. Students’ attitudes towards e-books in a Scottish higher education institute: Part 1. Library review 57(8): 593‒605.

Baier, Kylie, Cindy Hendricks, K. Warren Gorden, James E. Hendricks and Lessie Cochran. 2011. College students’ textbook reading, or not. American Reading Forum Annual Yearbook Vol. 31: 1‒8.

Bennett, Linda. 2006. E-books: The options: A manual for publishers. Publishers Association.

Bryman, A. and E. Bell. 2011. Ethics in business research. Business Research Methods 7(5): 23‒56.

Byars, M. N. 2015. Printed books versus digital books. California Polytechnic State University.

Cant, M., C. Gerber-Nel, D. Nel, and T. Kotze. 2005. "Marketing Research. Claremont: An Examination of the Substitutability of Founders’ Human and Financial Capital in Emerging Business Ventures. Journal of Business Venturing 13(2005): 353‒369.

Chau, Patrick Y. K. and Paul Jen‐Hwa Hu. Information technology acceptance by individual professionals: A model comparison approach. Decision Sciences 32(4): 699‒719.

Chen, Yu-Hui and Stuart Barnes. 2007. Initial trust and online buyer behaviour. Industrial Management & Data Systems 107(1): 21‒36.

Davis, F. D. 1989. Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly: 319‒340.

Davis, Fred D., Richard P. Bagozzi and Paul R. Warshaw. 1992. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to use computers in the workplace 1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 22(14): 1111‒1132.

Dillon, Andrew and Michael G. Morris. 1996. User acceptance of new information technology: Theories and models. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Durwin, Cheryl Cisero and William M. Sherman. 2008. Does choice of college textbook make a difference in students’ comprehension? College Teaching 56(1): 28‒34.

Falc, Emilie O. 2013. An assessment of college students’ attitudes towards using an online e-textbook. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects 9(1): 1‒12.

Fang, Z. and M. J. Schleppegrell. 2010. Disciplinary literacies across content areas: Supporting secondary reading through functional language analysis. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53(7): 587‒597.

Folb, Barbara L., Charles B. Wessel and Leslie J. Czechowski. 2011. Clinical and academic use of electronic and print books: The Health Sciences Library System e-book study at the University of Pittsburgh. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA 99(3): 218.

Hair, Joseph F., Mary Celsi, David J. Ortinau and Robert P. Bush. 2008. Essentials of marketing research. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Higher Education.

Huang, Jen-Hung, Yu-Ru Lin and Shu-Ting Chuang. 2007. Elucidating user behavior of mobile learning: A perspective of the extended technology acceptance model. The Electronic Library 25(5): 585‒598.

Hue, Jennifer E., Mark Rosenfield and Gianinna Saá. 2014. Reading from electronic devices versus hardcopy text. Work 47(3): 303‒307.

Jolliffe, David A. and Allison Harl. 2008. Studying the reading transition from high school to college: What are our students reading and why? College English 70(6): 599‒617.

Kerr, Matthew A. and Sonya E. Symons. 2006. Computerized presentation of text: Effects on children’s reading of informational material. Reading and writing 19(1): 1‒19.

Kumar, Ranjit. 2019. Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. Sage Publications Limited.

Lacobacci, D. and G. A. Churchill. 2010. Marketing research. Methodological foundations. 10th edition. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Maduku, Daniel K. 2015. An empirical investigation of students’ behavioural intention to use e-books. Management Dynamics: Journal of the Southern African Institute for Management Scientists 24(3): 3‒20.

Moore, Gary C. and Izak Benbasat. 1991. Development of an instrument to measure the perceptions of adopting an information technology innovation. Information Systems Research 2(3): 192‒222.

Osuala, Esogwa C. 1982. Introduction to research methodology. Africana-FEP Publishers.

Patton, Kelly A. 2014. Digital vs. in-print textbooks: Relationships and trends for college students. PhD dissertation. Bowling Green State University.

Reynolds, Rob. 2011. Trends influencing the growth of digital textbooks in US higher education. Publishing Research Quarterly 27(2): 178‒187.

Rockinson-Szapkiw, Amanda J., Jennifer Courduff, Kimberly Carter and David Bennett. 2013. Electronic versus traditional print textbooks: A comparison study on the influence of university students’ learning. Computers & Education 63: 259‒266.

Rogers, Everett M. 1995. Lessons for guidelines from the diffusion of innovations. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 21(7): 324‒328.

Sekaran, U. and R. Bougie. 2016. Research methods for business: A skill building approach. John Wiley & Sons.

Shiratuddin, Norshuhada and Monica Landoni. 2003. E-book technology: Devices, books, and book builder. Information Technology in Education Annual 2003 1(2003): 105‒138.

Smith, Shannon D. and Judith Borreson Caruso. 2010. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. Key Findings. EDUCAUSE (2010).

Trochim, W. M. 2000. The research methods knowledge base. http://www.socialresearchmethods. net/kb (Accessed 13 November 2018).

Welman, C., F. Kruger and B. Mitchell. 2005. Research methodology. What is environmental education. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Zhang, Dongsong. 2003. Powering e-learning in the new millennium: An overview of e-learning and enabling technology. Information Systems Frontiers 5(2): 207‒218.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

eISSN: 1753-5913

Copyright © 2016 South African Journal of Higher Education

Hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2016.

Creative Commons License -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.