Publishers Offering Feature-Packed, Digital Textbooks to Overcome Used Market Woes
July 23, 2013 10:28 AM
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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.
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RE: i sell my used book full price!
7/26/2013 6:41:42 AM
True, but there hasn't been a lot of huge changes in most basic engineering (or math, or basic sciences), in a long time. So you are rarely buying edition 1 of those texts. It's
Mechanics of Machines, 27th edition
which is mostly some editorial fixes, updated references, some new practice problems, and maybe some info fleshed out or re-written. The publisher has long since re-couped the upfront costs and is now mostly making changes to kill off the used book market and generate new sales.
I kept most of my engineering texts because they don't really go bad. They might not have the right practice problems or be laid out exactly the same, but the equations inside are very unlikely to have changed.
Besides, if I'm just paying to "rent" the book from the publisher anyway then the only benefit to me is really the lower cost. If they want ebooks to be competitive they should price them closer to the return value of a printed copy since for most students that's the real cost of "renting" a textbook for the semester.
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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