A Step in the Wrong Direction for e-Textbooks

While e-reading and digital publishing continue to soar in various arms of the industry, Jeremy Greenfield of Digital Book World released an article today that shows that students are actually turning away from digital textbooks in many instances.

According to Greenfield, the Book Industry Study Group showed that digital textbook sales made up about six percent of textbook purchases in 2010, but that number dropped to three percent for 2011. Interestingly, while other types of publishing are reporting digital sales in the range of twenty to thirty percent, so why the poor showing for academic content?

The data for the report was based on an interest survey by over 1,600 college students, so not all of the information comes from hard sales numbers. Also, several factors came into play, such as the availability of the textbooks for various courses. There were also differences in the demographic of the survey respondents that had not been taken into account in the past.

Some of the highlights of the report mentioned that 47% of students said they would opt for an e-textbook over print if the price and availability were the same; those who prefer print editions most often responded that they do so in order to resell the textbook at a later time. Among those who didn’t have a preference on price, most of them were students whose parents were paying for the textbooks as opposed to students who footed the bill themselves.

As for the devices themselves, while 46% of the students reported an interest in using a tablet PC for school, a surprisingly low number given the ease of use of ebooks, only three percent said that they currently rely on a tablet as their main study technology. If there is such a large discrepancy in the interest versus accessibility of the devices, it should come as no surprise that the textbooks are not selling as well as other types of ebooks.

Mercy Pilkington (1982 Posts)

is a Senior Editor for Good e-Reader. She is also the CEO and founder of a hybrid publishing and consulting company.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000110073910 Ryno Bones

    My wife is currently a student, and I’ve got a simple explanation:  The price.  We can NOT in good conscience spend $600+ a semester on something digital that will literally never be used again.  It’s like throwing money to the wind.  We even have to think it over before purchasing her print editions as many times she was never given an assignment requiring the book to be used.  It’s a waste of money to the extreme.

  • Mercy Pilkington

     I think you’ve hit on what is possibly the largest argument in the digital textbook sphere. From what I’ve heard from textbook publishers, digital editions are NOT going to be cheaper than print counterparts (unlike with trade books, for example) because the high cost of the textbook is supposedly in the paying of the authors. I think it may have more to do with having a captive audience than having Ph.D.s writing the content. Thanks for reading!