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Something to thumb through: More e-textbook news

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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.

Author: Jacqui Barrineau

Jacqui Barrineau is a writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with husband Trey, a Shetland Sheepdog, and two unhelpful-but-funny cats. Her work has appeared in "So to Speak" and "Calliope," and she's a regular contributor to the flash-fiction sites Paragraph Planet and Doorknobs & Bodypaint. Once upon a time, she was the audience engagement editor at USA Today. Now she does other fun things that involve advertising, marketing and social media. The views expressed here and in other outlets are hers, not her employers'. Outside of work, she's proud to serve on the Northern Virginia Community College Marketing Advisory Committee. As a committee member, she joins industry leaders in lending their knowledge and expertise to ensure the college's Marketing curriculum is relevant and responsive to the needs of the students and the surrounding business communities.

2 thoughts on “Something to thumb through: More e-textbook news

  1. Pingback: McGraw-Hill, Pearson invest in e-textbook developer « J's Pages

  2. Pingback: NOOK Color about to get cooler « J's Pages

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