The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CACS E-Book Performance Survey

The following posting is courtesy of Kathleen Kaser, Director North for the California Association of College Stores (CACS). We were very happy to learn that Kathleen recently led an informal performance survey for CACS regarding the availability and demand for e-books by higher education students in California. More about the survey and the results can be found below.


CACS conducted an informal survey regarding the availability of E-books offered by higher education institutions and the demand for E-books by higher education students in California for the spring semester or winter quarter of 2009. It was compiled for Don Newton, who as CACS legislative liaison was asked for the information by Senator Elaine Alquist who sponsors SB 48 which “will be mandating that publishers provide both a print & full electronic version of a textbook along the following timeline; 50% of textbooks must have a full electronic version by 2015 and 100% by 2020."

The general comments are based on responses from seven California Universities and twenty Community Colleges. Universities responding were: SDSU, CSU Fresno, CSU Fullerton, UC Riverside, UC Davis, UCLA, and Cal Poly. Community Colleges responding were: Los Medanos, Ohlone, Santa Barbara, Fresno CC, Citrus, LATT, San Diego (3), Solano, San Mateo (3), Cabrillo, Foothill, Fullerton, Chaffey, Modesto, Coastline, and Chabot.

Respondents were asked three questions:
- How many E-books do you have available to sell (generally) this semester?
- How many are you selling?
- What is the student response to E-books?

Three of the seven Universities surveyed offer approximately two hundred titles, and two offer a hundred titles this term. One University offers nine titles this term, but usually has thirty. One University offers none citing no student requests. Sales results are mixed with SDSU reporting sales of a thousand E-books this term, CSU Fullerton and Cal Poly sold about two hundred, Fresno State sold thirty five, and UC Davis and UCLA sold less than ten.

Eight of the twenty Community Colleges surveyed offer more than twenty titles with no one offering more than sixty five titles. Two colleges offer ten titles this term, two colleges offer one title, and the remaining eight colleges offer none. Top sellers for E-books this term were SDCC and Coastline who each sold one hundred and fifty, Foothill sold seventy five, Chabot sold forty three, Chaffey sold twenty, Santa Barbara sold nine, with the remaining ten colleges reporting no sales.

Positive bookstore comments about E-books:
- 70% of students surveyed at a University would buy another E-book.
- 33% of students surveyed at different University would buy an E-book again, and 25% thought the E-book was better quality than the textbook.
- Demand is increasing as the supply increases.
- Students are satisfied and demand is growing.
- It is important to offer students many choices of course content.

Negative bookstore comments about E-books:
- Half of all the bookstores surveyed experience indifference to Ebooks or no demand yet from students or faculty, even if they offer E-books for sale.
- Cannot sell E-books due to district firewall connectivity problems.
- E-book prices may be too high. Students know that buying a used book and selling it back to the store at the end of the semester is less expensive than buying an E-book.
- There are some problems with downloads and refunds, but the technology is improving.
- Publisher representatives do not push E-books.
- Logistically carrying around a laptop instead of a book is cumbersome, and it is expensive to print out the book.
- Students and faculty are more interested in free, Open Educational Resources than E-books. (Comment from only one of the respondents.)

The sources of the E-books offered were Jumpbooks, MBS Universal Digital Titles, CourseSmart, and Follett. It does appear that the E-book market is a fledgling industry and that demand is increasing as the supply increases for students comfortable with technology. Fewer titles are available for Community Colleges at this time.

Don Newton added the following comments to the E-book survey results sent to Senator Alquist: “I think your goal of 50% availability by 2015 is certainly doable. However publishers are mostly moved by marketplace acceptance. Much work needs to be done to make electronic titles popular enough to warrant the investment required for publishers to make more electronic titles available.”

“The investment needed to make electronic books available is not in getting content in an electronic file. The problem is with securing the intellectual property from piracy and maintaining that security. In addition, as some of our comments show, publishers will need to make it more convenient and more reliable.”

“If publishers need to oppose your bill it will probably be for customer lack of demand, not for their inability or unwillingness to have the product in e-formats. In a few years we will see what direction customer demand leads e-book publishing availability. I am sure publishers will be speaking with you about this. Thanks for your time and please remember CACS members are ready to help with any information we have.”

Many thanks to all who responded so quickly to my request for information.

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