Academic reading format preferences and behaviors among university students worldwide: A comparative survey analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association


Australian Library and Information Association


School of Science


Originally published as: Johnston, N., & Salaz, A. M. (2019). Exploring the reasons why university students prefer print over digital texts: An Australian perspective. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 68(2) 126-145. Original article available here.


This paper presents findings from an Australian survey that provides an analysis of the reasons why university students prefer to read print or digital course materials. This survey was undertaken as part of the Academic Reading Format International Study (ARFIS), which is investigating print versus digital reading preferences in 31 countries (Mizrachi et al., 2018). A total of 582 students completed the survey with 471 students providing comments. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the comments from the survey. The comments provided in this survey provide rich data on the reasons why students prefer reading in print or electronic formats, an area of importance due to the increasing prevalence of digital only collections in university libraries. Based on comments, students preferred print due to reasons such as accessibility, eyestrain, tactile features, better focus and ability to highlight and take notes. Although students prefer print, they acknowledge the convenience and cheaper costs of e-texts. Students who were e-preferring were influenced by issues such as cost, environment and convenience. In light of library collections prioritising digital content, tertiary institutions and libraries should carefully consider the role that print textbooks and collections, as well as printing services, may play in supporting student learning.




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