Jim Johnson, who also is director of instructional and information technology services in the Bayh College of Education, surveyed more than 200 students.
Half of the students used an iPad2 to read a textbook chapter while the other half of the students read from a printed textbook chapter. The students then took an open-book quiz with eight easy and eight moderate questions on the chapter.
Johnson's research specifically examined three questions: Are there any significant differences in reading comprehension test scores of students when using paper texts versus digital texts? Are there any differences in reading comprehension test scores with regard to gender or between text formats and gender? Is there a relationship between the hours of experience using tablet computers and reading comprehension test scores among study participants?
"No matter what the format, no matter what the preference, they did well," he said.
He also found that there was no significant difference on test scores whether or not the participant had past experience on a tablet.
However, some problems remain in the digital textbook market. Students expressed concern about eye strain from reading text on electronic devices.
Johnson said one participant became so nauseous reading the digital text that she was unable to complete the study. Also students expressed concern about the high price of digital textbooks as well as the battery life, software and reliable technology.
In focus groups after the initial test, Johnson said students didn't like the high cost of digital book rental or the inability to resell digital textbooks.
"A lot of the students didn't like the idea of renting books," he said.
Johnson said there needs to be further discussion about the cost of digital textbooks and how to keep costs down. Faculty members also need to be encouraged to write and create their own digital textbooks and resources for students, he said.
In the future, Johnson said professors could select chapters from different digital textbooks and combine it into one digital textbook so students wouldn't have to buy different textbooks to read chapters that the professors like.