What is better to study: the printed book or the digital book?: An exploratory study of qualitative nature

  • Jose Carvalho
  • Ricardo Luengo
  • Luis Casas
  • Javier Cubero
Keywords: Qualitative research; webQDA; Printed book; Digital book.


The main objective of this study was to know the opinion of 31 students of the Master "Research in Teaching and Learning of Experimental, Social and Mathematical Sciences" of the University of Extremadura - Spain (academic year 2017-2018), regarding the study from printed books and from digital books.

The analysis of the messages in an electronic Forum was carried out following a process of reduction, organization, coding, obtaining results and verification of conclusions (Bardin, 2014).The subsequent readings, in depth, provided the creation of an emerging system of categories and the definition and conceptual description of the dimensions and categories of analysis. This process was supported through the webQDA software (Neri De Souza, Costa & Moreira, 2010).

Among the categories identified regarding the use of printed books, the following were identified: Senses and feelings, concentration / memory retention, writing and underlining, no dependence on technology, accessibility and health.

Among the main reasons to study from a book in printed format, students indicated the possibility of highlighting, annotating, crossing out, making drawings and schemes in books and even entering marks in books. With regard to the category "senses and feelings" students refer that reading from printed books is more pleasant, natural, intuitive, close and personal.

Among the categories identified regarding the use of digital books, the following were identified: transportation and storage, search of informatio9n, price, ecology, society´s demand and diversity of functionalities.

The most important reasons indicated for the use of digital books to study gravitate around the effects on living beings and the environment in which they live, and with the search for information.

It is clear in our study that the paper format continues to be preferred by students. An identical result was obtained by Baron (2017) when they concluded that the paper book remains the absolute reference for university students from the countries involved in their research.

This work opens new lines and research problems, such as knowing and understanding:

- Students' beliefs about «learning», «studying», «remembering», «knowing», «didactic resource», «text», which represent the basis of their practices of using books and which are closely linked to their conception of learning.

- Whether the preferences of the students for the printed format are essentially due or not to the persistence of a pedagogical paradigm based on the reception of messages or information and on the presentation and reproduction of knowledge.