Developing interactive digital course materials is the best recourse for textbook publishers to regain sales lost to rentals and used books, said a recent report from research firm McKinsey & Co.
McKinsey’s three-year study of the college textbook market showed a steady rise in the number of copies rented by students, accompanied by a slide in the volume of used textbooks bought. Sales of new textbooks also took a hit during that time, but were partly bolstered by purchases to stock rental programs.
By 2018, McKinsey predicted, rentals and used books will each account for 30% of college textbooks, while new books will slip to 26%. Plain-Jane e-books will get 5% and “no buy” options such as sharing with a friend, borrowing from a library, or pirating content will make up the remaining 9%.
Although McKinsey acknowledged that custom textbooks have helped some publishers hang onto sales, “the custom-publishing market is already quite mature, which means that growth opportunities are limited,” the report said.
“The larger opportunity for publishers lies in the creation of dynamic digital-learning resources,” the report noted, adding, “Time is not on the side of textbook publishers. They face a near-term competitive threat from the rental market, even as they serve a customer base that is increasingly dominated by digital natives.”