US College Students Use Net for Shopping

College students in the US use the Internet for more than pirating music. According to a study by Greenfield Online, they are also active online shoppers and email users.

Greenfield’s Pulsefinder On-Campus Market Study found that the Internet has become an integral element of college life. The study revealed that 31 percent of students describe themselves as “Internet dependent,” and 28 percent consider themselves “cybergeeks.”

“College students are leading edge Internet users,” said Rudy Nadilo, president and CEO of of Greenfield Online. “Their online habits could demonstrate the future direction of the Internet.”

The vast majority of students (81 percent) report having made an online purchase. This number has increased significantly since November 1998 (51 percent). The most common items purchased are CDs (64 percent), books (58 percent), clothing (42 percent), and concert/theater/event tickets (32 percent). One quarter of college students have purchased textbooks online, with 77 percent of those who buy textbooks online describing the process as “inexpensive,” “more convenient” (49 percent), and “easier” (42 percent). Ten percent also like the sites’ guaranteed book buy-back.

Surprisingly, the main reason students do not buy textbooks online is “inconvenience” (49 percent). Other reasons not to buy textbooks online include “shipping charges” (31 percent), “poor selection” (22 percent), and “have to pay to return the book” (18 percent).


Textbook Sites Used by College Students
Site % Purchased
(July 2000)
% Purchased
(March 2000)
Amazon.com 9% 11%
Varsitybooks.com 8% 9%
Bigwords.com 7% 6%
Barnesandnoble.com 6% 7%
Ecampus.com 5% 6%
Source: Greenfield Online

Students have access to the Internet from a variety of locations, including their parents’ home (65 percent), apartment/house (52 percent), school library (48 percent), friends’ computer (41 percent), and dorm room (40 percent). Students access the Web most often via the college’s server for a direct connection (35 percent), a local ISP (21 percent) and AOL (16 percent). Nearly all the students surveyed (92 percent) own a computer. The majority of students (78 percent) have been using the Internet for at least three years, and 90 percent go online at least once a day. They spend an average of three hours online everyday, and 20 percent spend four or more hours online each day.

The most common regular online activity is sending and receiving email (92 percent). Other frequent online activities include surfing the Internet for topics of interest (72 percent) and using instant messaging (60 percent).

Greenfield’s study of 1,135 students was drawn from an online research panel of 30,000 four-year-college students recruited by Greenfield and YouthStream Media Networks.

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