In response to visitors’ interest in The Wall Street Journal story on e-textbooks, I’m now covering textbook publishers’ response to industry demands. As a marketing student who spent a child’s ransom on textbooks this semester, and the semesters before that, I understand the need to find a lower-cost alternative to traditional textbooks. And although I’m tablet enthusiast who is always eager to see what added value emerges as the technology becomes more sophisticated, I’m a compulsive highlighter, note-scribbler and paper-clipper, all of which makes me feel like I learn more. So it’s likely I’ll be slower to adopt e-textbooks.
I doubt I’m the only student who feels this way about textbooks, but as the industry shifts, students’ purchasing habits will have to change. In the spring issue of College Services magazine, Jade Roth, of Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, discusses the slowth growth of the e-textbook market — which she attributes to technological and content limitations — and the surge in purchases last year. Roth reports B&N campus bookstores enjoyed a 3000% increase in e-textbook sales last year — the same year 14% of students reported buying an e-textbook. Roth cites e-readers’ improved functionality and integration among the reasons more students — and faculty — are turning to e-texts.
What’s not mentioned — and I understand why; the author works for B&N — is the 900-pound industry disrupter: the release of the iPad last April. Suddenly the world was introduced to a slick and pretty tablet from a company that can do no wrong. Apple’s halo is super shiny, and it’s understandable that more people — including students, despite iPad’s price tag — would flock to a tablet computer. And if we couldn’t afford an iPad, maybe we went with a NookStudy or a Kindle as e-reader sales doubled in 2010.
In the wake of the iPad/e-reader explosion, social learning outfit Xplana has revised its five-year projections for the e-textbook market. Rob Reynolds blogs that the Xplana report predicts “eventual dominance of digital (textbooks) over print an inevitable outcome within five-seven years.”
Meanwhile, Reuters tells us that the Association of American Publishers reports January e-book sales (not just e-textbooks) jumped to $69.9 million compared with $32.4 million in January 2010 — 115% increase. Reuters reports adult hardcover and paperback sales dropped in January, but sales in the higher-education category, which includes college textbooks, were down only a bit: $382 million from $387.6 million in 2010 — perhaps further proof that the skyrocketing e-textbook market is far from maturity.
RELATED: This just in: The Associated Press is reporting Borders is closing an additional 28 stores.