Students increasingly look for alternatives to traditional texts; downloading of unauthorized content on the rise, says new BISG research

    Student use of alternative and illicit course materials is on the rise, according to new research from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)’s ongoing survey of Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education. The second installment in Volume Three of the study, which is powered by Bowker® Market Research, shows that the percentage of students reporting they had downloaded course content from an unauthorized Web site has risen steadily to 34 percent from 20 percent when it was first measured in 2010. Over the same period, the percent of students saying they photocopied or scanned chapters of textbooks from other students rose from 21 percent to 31 percent.

    “This is important behavior to track, especially since it’s coinciding with other data that show declining student commitment to owning current editions of assigned texts,” said Len Vlahos, Executive Director, BISG.

    Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, Volume Three, Report 2 also features highlights from a parallel survey of higher ed faculty. Among the additional insights into the issues affecting college programs and curriculum is faculty concern about value in return for student spending. For example, 75 percent of faculty respondents felt that the overall cost of obtaining a college degree is too high (although only 33 percent feel education at their own institution is too expensive). Faculty respondents reported that students typically paid $110 for a printed textbook and $58 for a digital textbook—down slightly from last year’s survey results of $118 and $65. However, they felt that both print and digital course materials were priced higher than their value to the class and should be $74 for print and $40 for digital—also down from $79 and $48 last year.

    “Exploring the behavior of both the end-user and the decision-maker is becoming far more important as these two groups are both driving market changes,” said Jo Henry, Director of Bowker Market Research, a service of ProQuest affiliate Bowker. “It’s an increasingly complex marketplace to predict and respond to.”

    For the first time Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education explored Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and found that while awareness of these courses is still low among survey respondents, the phenomenon is beginning to impact student attitudes and behaviors. Slightly more than 15 percent of student respondents said they were familiar with MOOCs. Of those respondents familiar with MOOCs, 56 percent said they had explored or considered enrolling in one. Of those who actually enrolled in a MOOC, a remarkable 83 percent completed the course and 20 percent received college credit. Fully 68 percent of all survey respondents said they would be more likely to try a MOOC for university credit if the tuition was lower than for an online or classroom course.

    The findings from Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education come from a semi-annual online survey of college students, drawn from a nationally representative panel. The additional faculty survey is conducted once per year. To ensure the survey questions explore the appropriate trends and issues, they are developed in partnership with a variety of publishers and other companies serving the higher education market. In addition to the core question set, survey sponsors and other interested parties can submit proprietary questions to supplement the core fieldings. Those interested in specifics of the data and/or submitting proprietary questions should contact Nadine Vassallo in the BISG office at 646-336-7141 x13 or

    The survey findings are available for sale both as a PDF summary report and as a complete data compendium, accessible online. A substantial discount is available for BISG members. The second installment in Volume Three of Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education is available as of July 16, 2013. For more information, or to order a copy, visit