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Friday, August 22, 2008

Interest in E-Textbooks at the College Level Accelerates

A new study out reports that interest in e-textbooks and multimedia tools is starting to grow. Simba Information in a press release yesterday noted that while new textbook sales continue to grow, used textbook sales are expected to begin leveling out -- particularly because e-textbook options are starting to take hold among students and faculty. The release notes:
Multimedia materials have the greatest potential to change the perception of instructional materials in the college market, to change the concept of a textbook and to change how content is used in college courses.
The article does have some interesting statistics that some might find interesting.

Aside from this article I have heard a few other stats over the past several months. That the conversion rate from print to digital for e-textbooks has now hit the 2-3% mark (same rate we saw in music during the first year of iTunes). I heard a similar iTunes-like comparison for the Kindle and e-books in general recently. Students are generally a tech-saavy bunch, and more so every day. Because student populations turn over rather quickly (about every 4-5 years), it is not inconceivable to see digital go from almost nothing, to something substantive, in just a few years time. Does that mean all print will go away? No. The used market is likely to slim down a bit as competition for printed used gets more intense. New delivery models will likely decrease the amount of print editions available, or might generate more customized local editions with little market value beyond a particular faculty member or institution. If the "Kindle for Textbooks" comes out next year, and if that results in a faster shift to digital among students, will college stores and other content providers be ready for the shift? What will it take for stores to demonstrate they are capable and credible sources for course materials in a digital context?

Yesterday's press release is just one more indicator that a shift is coming. It is like being on a roller coaster, headinng for that first big drop. The top of the hill is coming, but we can not quite see the size of the drop on the other side. The moment of anticipation, where you hang briefly at the top seeing what is ahead before racing down the first hill is just a few clicks of the pull chain away. Better double check the safety bar and seat belts!

1 comment:

Todd said...

Interesting article. Thanks for the link, Mark. TS from SD.