Publishers Offering Feature-Packed, Digital Textbooks to Overcome Used Market Woes
July 23, 2013 10:28 AM
About 77 percent of students said they still prefer print books
Textbook publishers are hoping to battle the used textbook market with digital options, but it could take some time before students hop on that bandwagon.
Publishers like McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson Plc don't make any money on used textbooks; their revenue comes from sales of new textbooks. However, college students in particular aren't always willing to pay the steep prices for new textbooks -- which can run hundreds of dollars -- after already having to pay thousands for tuition.
This is where the used market comes in handy. Students can buy used print books on the cheap, and then resell them when the semester is over.
used "Biology" by Sylvia Mader and Michael Windelspecht as an example. The brand-new print version costs $229, and the used version costs $102. Students can typically resell it for about $95.
Which route do you think students are going to take?
To address this issue for publishers, they're launching
digital e-book versions
of their textbooks. This allows them to sell access codes to students, which expire when the semester ends.
For the book "Biology," the e-book version costs $120.
This is still more expensive than the used print version, and students don't have the option to resell it after use. But textbook publishers insist that the bonus material along with the access code is worth the extra money.
These digital versions can offer quizzes, study guides, flash cards, notes and some even act as a personal tutor for an additional fee.
McGraw-Hill launched its LearnSmart software in 2010, which is a persona guide through the company's e-books. At that time, there were only 150,000 subscribers. In 2012, there were more than a million students. They pay about $25 to $35 per course on top of the cost of the e-book.
But not all students care to use the extra features that come with e-books. Many still like to hold a physical book in their hands and study on their own without guides and quizzes to slow the process. Not everyone learns the same way.
In a 2012 study by the National Association of College Stores, about 77 percent of students said they still prefer print books. Another survey showed that just 14 percent of classes required online e-books.
Tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have been working with publishers to offer e-books on devices like the iPad, Kindle and Surface. It's a win-win situation, since the tech companies sell their hardware and textbook publishers often get a cut of e-book versions sold.
Last year, Apple introduced
iBooks Author and iBooks 2
. iBook Author is Mac software that allows textbook writers and publishers to create textbooks for the iPad, and iBooks 2 is the sequel to the iBooks app that provides students with new study options like note-taking.
"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
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