Posted by & filed under Amazon, Copyright, Ecommerce, education, iPad, online education.

Description: Amazon, which got its start selling books online, announced this year that, for the first time, its digital books had outsold paper books. This trend of going digital does not hold true for all books.

Source: www.nytimes com

Date: Nov 23, 2011

Textbooks are gaining, though, as publishers take advantage of the popularity of tablets like the Kindle and iPad, expanding their catalogues and offering products like rental digital books that expire after a semester or two.

The potential for digital growth is leading publishers to experiment with products that stretch the boundaries of traditional textbooks, slowly turning away from static text and images toward a multimedia, intuitive approach, publishers say. READ REST OF STORY

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why have textbooks been so successful in digital market?

2.  What are the long tem consequences for textbooks entering the digital realm? Who are the winners and who are the losers in this trend?

24 Responses to “Textbooks Finally Take a Big Leap to Digital”

  1. Joseph Walls

    I think that Digital textbooks is a great way to go. However its current forms are terrible. I bought a few of my textbooks for this semester through the Book store on Course Smart. The website for this is still REALLY lacking. You cannot copy and paste properly, and it’s a pain to highlight. You also do not get access to any of the online content that normally comes with the book (I know right how does that make sense).

  2. Jillian K

    In my opinion, there is two main reasons why the textbook switch from paper to digital has seen success thus far and will continue to. The first reason is cost. I realize that purchasing a tablet to view your textbooks on may be quite a cost (that is they are not available via web browser and can be viewed on a computer), but to be frank, I could buy a tablet per semester I have been at the university with the money I have used on textbooks. The decreased cost for having accessibility to the textbook would be huge for students. The second factor I think would be convenience. Having all your textbooks available online, or in your tablet would save you from having to carry a small suitcase around the university with you daily. Clicking to the chapter and page you want would save time flipping through pages. The capability to search for a specific term or topic would be extremely useful.

    I agree that the expiration of the digital books mean we would have to re-subscribe in the future should we need to access that information in the future but in my opinion the low cost, convenience and possibility for interactive learning systems included in your textbook completely outweigh that downfall. This year I have been utilizing the online quizzes that come as part of my textbook for this class and have seen my test marks increase dramatically. This could have great educational benefits!

  3. Rayelle D

    Online textbooks allow for convenience as well as a reduced cost. As a University student I am always looking for convenience as well as where I can save money, therefore the movement towards all digital is, in my opinion, a movement towards the positive. I really dislike college and university bookstores for the prices they charge for text books and the way they handle the buy back process. Because of these downfalls students either dont buy the text book, therefore not getting their money’s worth for what they are paying in tuition costs, or after they purchase the text book they either throw it out, which is a waste, or it sits on a shelf, takes up room, collects dust and is a once a gain a waste.
    Yes it is true that digital books do have a long way to go, but as long as they keep costs down I believe that they will for sure, with out a doubt take over the bookstores.

  4. Ivette

    I think that one of the reasons why textbooks have become so popular in the digital realm is because of their convenience. It is easier for anyone to just carry around a laptop, a tablet or even a phone than certain number textbooks. Also, the accessibility of textbooks wherever they’re needed makes them more attractive and handy. Another factor is affordability, as it is cheaper to rent a digital book for a semester or two than a more expensive hard copy that probably won’t be useful after a while. Multimedia content and more user-book interaction is another feature that makes digital textbooks attractive. Once the digital market for textbooks picks up and becomes stronger it will become very likely to potentially take printed textbooks out of business; this is yet to be seen though because many people still prefer paper copies over digital text. Stores that only sell hard copies of books have to diversify their product line and expand into digital books online available to customers if they want to still be profitable and maintain a stand in the market. Retailing industries for books will probably stop being necessary at some point and it will be a great opportunity for digital textbooks publishers and providers to explore new business opportunities and expand into new horizons.

  5. Meagan

    There has been a recent increase in digital text books, why are they doing so well? The main reason for this is because they are so much cheaper than paper text books and on a student’s budget that is an important item to consider. Also they are helping the environment because less paper is used to sell them to students and most students don’t print off the whole text book so it still saving paper even if students print pages off. Another reason is that they don’t take up space and students don’t have to haul that big text around anywhere you go. All you need is access to a computer and it doesn’t just have to be your computer, you can access it on any electronic that gives you an internet connection. Since they are cheaper you also don’t have to buy used books that are written in or have been highlighted and tend to confuse some students. A lot of students have trouble selling old textbooks because new editions can come out every couple years so some texts can’t be resold. So your old text is taking up space and you may never use it again, and you paid all the money for a text book that you barely used. There are so many advantages for digital textbooks, which is why they are becoming very popular.

  6. Ellen H

    Textbooks have been successful in the digital market for a number of reasons. The first is obviously budget. Students have a very limited budget and hard-copy textbooks can cost anywhere from $80-$500. Because of this students are always looking for ways to economize. They buy used books, they buy books from companies such as Amazon and have them shipped, all in the name of savings. Digital textbooks are a huge cost savings for students. According to the article, Amazon reported as much as 80% savings. They are also environmentally friendly, and help to protect against back problems. Textbooks have to come out with new updates every few years to stay relevant to the course material being taught. Rarely do the outdated books serve any further purpose. Many end up clogging up landfills. An e-book saves on paper and is always relevant and easy to update. Because a student can access all their textbooks on a laptop, they are now carrying around a weight anywhere from 1-10lbs depending on the size of the laptop. As laptops advance, the weight becomes less which is good news for parents and members of the medical society. Textbooks, however, can weigh a few pounds each easily, and a student must still carry notebooks, etc.

  7. Matt Bourret

    In today’s world technology has expanded so rapidly. The majority of people are using either Smartphone’s, laptops, or the most recent the ipad. Some people have more than just one or even all three of these. With them everywhere people go they are able to communicate and get educated instantly. This is the reason why I believe the digital market has become so successful for textbooks. Instead of carrying around heavy textbooks people can bring their electronic instead. Another reason why I believe it’s becoming so successful is because of the people in the world that are for “thinking green”. Instead of printing off all of that paper you are able to have it all digitally in front of you. The companies are winning these type of people over, knowing that their making a difference in the world saving natural resources. The winners’ of this trend that’s going on is the companies supporting the digital books. They are recognizing that people are relying on technology more than ever. The people that are hurting from this trend are the college and university bookstores because the digital copies are so much cheaper and they aren’t profiting as much as the hard copies that they carry.

  8. Destiny S

    Higher education resources, specifically textbooks, are a large industry and generate enormous amounts of revenue every year. In recent years, the move from paper to online textbooks has become increasingly popular at the post-secondary level. Some websites, including Amazon, note that online books (non-textbooks) are outselling paper copies, and textbooks are following closely in suit. Kindles and iPads are used as book readers, allowing those who purchase electronic copies of books to take and read their book anywhere they please. Furthermore, websites that sell electronic copies of books typically offer book rentals. These sites set some guidelines on book rentals by setting expiration periods so that there is no resale. Additionally, they also license purchased and rented books only to the purchaser so no extra copies can be made. This helps keep costs down, which may anger book printers, but does not affect publishers.

  9. Breanne Marton

    Textbooks have been so successful because they reduce the costs of the traditional textbook substantially. For students who are already paying for their own tuition the additional cost of books is significantly high. Granted a student has the opportunity to purchase a textbook for up to 80% less than a paperback copy they will most likely purchase this over a paperback even if the consequence is only having it for a limited time. In reality most students sell their textbooks back anyways for a greatly reduced cost so if they have the opportunity to pay less in the first place this makes more sense to the student. Also, the fact that you can use your e-reader makes the transportation of books easier as well as the search within a book much less time consuming than in a traditional book. With an e-book you can just search for the keywords as opposed to looking through the index and having to search through the book for the item you are interested in. Regardless of whether the e-book is permanent or temporary students are still able to make their own notes off of the e-reader, meaning that they will still have access to the information, they just have to be motivated to make the notes in the first place.

  10. Hassan Al Sarrar

    The parties involved in this case are so many which makes it very debatable. The printer company, the publisher, readers, websites and internet providers are all have impact over or impacted by this new industry. First printer companies would be the most least fortune in this shift because their main active business income is based on printing different works and the fact this industry is moving fast and people are shifting to it is a threat for printing companies to run out of business. Publishers might encounter minor issues to adapt to the new eBook idea but with the help of technology nowadays that won’t be a big deal. Readers from different field whether student or faculty member or doctors or reader for fun all kinds of them are moving towards this newer version of new books. And that’s the key success for this industry and the reason for people to shift is the convenience that attached to this serves where you have an access from anywhere as long as you are connected to an internet provider. So, no more of carrying a heavy book all around for student to class rooms or many books on huge tables for researcher and scholars. However, for book collectors and , I meant physically collector, that would also a downfall for this industry.

  11. Erin

    I strongly dislike digital textbooks. I purchased one this year, and it was still quite expensive, it expires in 12 months or something, I cannot resell it, and its formating was horrible. It would not allow you to scroll through pages. Another downside was that I had to read it online all the time, I could not actually save it to my computer, and I also had to stare at a computer screen to read, because I could not put it on an eReader. If textbooks are going to be offered more and more online, publishers need to look at changing their formatting for them.
    I think publishers benefit the most from having digital books because keeping a digital copy makes it easier for them to change their text and resell it. Also, having the expiring versions means that they can keep charging their fees, without having to change the textbook unless ACTUAL information of the cours changes, because people will not be able to resell their books or buy used. This will save them a lot of time and money.

  12. Bubba

    For me personally I prefer the traditional paper books. I like the idea that you can make notes into the book with your pen or you can highlight key points in your book. Some of these things can be done in the digital books still, but I think its more convenient to do it the old fashion way. I think what is making the digital books more popular is that they probably cost less. What makes this cost less would be that there wouldn’t be any need of actually printing a copy. Another thing that would make it more better is the accessibility of it. They can purchase at your home, without leaving your house. As mentioned in the article the tablets are helping with the boom of these digital books. They in my opinion are benefiting from the digital books more then anyone. Because if professors are only using a digital copy of a book and the only way a person can access it is by using a tablet they are forced into buying one. A possible long-term problem with this could be a higher uneducated population. Why this would be is because for the people who couldn’t afford these gadgets they will fall behind and will be discouraged to keep on learning.

  13. Brad

    The reason that textbooks have been so successful in the digital market place is because publishers ans marketers found the proper niche for student’s who are not willing to pay the over the top prices for printed textbooks. With this being process of having textbooks available online, students are not required to haul around heavy books on a daily basis, and they are able to have them all accessible through their laptop or tablet.

    The long term consequences for textbooks entering the digital world is that students will not be able to use these textbooks at a future date, and this hinders the successes that students may have. For myself, I am an accounting major and I have kept all of my textbooks because I know I will need to use them with completing my CASB modules. If I decided to turn to digital books, I would have to re-purchase the subscription for digital books which in the long run may be to the same cost to myself. The winners for this trend will always be the publishers, as the markup on any type of textbooks is huge. They will be able to still make their ridiculous profit, while pretty much continue to compete as a monopoly and drive up the prices of textbooks. The losers of this transition is the students and the printers for these books. The students will not have the physical feel with the book, and it may be time consuming to constantly flip through an electronic book. While the printers for these books will lose their total profits because of the switch to digital books.

  14. Rick Sharma

    Most university students like to have access to their books and learning material wherever they go. Therefore, knowing this digital publishers actually target post secondary students. Any student would much rather be able to pull out their laptop or get on the internet at their school’s library than having to carry a backpack full of five pound textbooks. Another reason for the success of digital books is the innovation to create something different, which has led to a technological boom. Availability of this technology has brought about a need for just about everything being available technologically; from online banking to being manage your stocks.

    As for the digital realm of textbooks in the long run, it’s only going to grow big. Who knows there might be an ‘app’ available soon enough for all the smartphones, which would nurture the digital growth even more. This of course would be a big failure for printing companies, but a big success for publishers because digital users will not be able to simply pass the textbook along, which ensures that there are no sales lost.

  15. B Schnell3

    Although online textbook sales have more than doubled in the past year, I would hesitate to say they are ‘so successful’. If Amazons digital book sales are now greater than paper sales, and the digital textbook market share is just 5% then it would be shown that other types of books must be far more successful on the digital market than textbooks. With that said, it is still exciting to see the recent growth, and while I remain leery at this point, it would be nice to have a strong alternative to the crazy high prices of paperback textbooks. Bring on all the digital restrictions you want, just save me money on textbooks. As a student I still find many of my colleagues still prefer to have a hard copy in front of them, I for the first time am overcoming this for economic reasons, and no doubt this will become an issue of the past by the time our computer-capable infants reach post secondary.

  16. Wale Obateru

    Digital textbooks are becoming more popular by the day as a result of the continiously changing state and improvements in technology. The world has gone digital; with numerouus electronic gadgets are being invented on a daily basis, a lot of people are becoming more comfortable with using these gadgets for their daily activities from work, to homes, during vacations, for fun just to mention a few. This is because of the relative ease involved in using these gadgets. This is one of the major reasons why the use of digital text books is becoming a more preffered way of accessing textbooks as oppossed to traditional textbooks. First of all, the relatively less expensive nature of digital textbooks makes it a more preferred buy. Also, the ease at which digital textbooks can be obtained as well as its portability also gives it an advantage over paper textbooks because it reduces the stress of having to carry a lot of heavy textbooks to class when they can easily be read from a portable device. These digital textbooks also have their own disadvantages as well; the fact that they expire after a certain period of time makes this an issue because you do not always have the text book for future use or references, except you buy it again online which adds to cost. Another issue could also be that these digital devices which are the mediums used to access or read these e-books can be subject to crash or even cyber attacks in which all stored digital books might be lost or corrupted. Although digital textbooks have their shortcomings, the advantages definitely outweighs the disadvantages.

  17. Nathan Jensen

    Textbooks are a big part about our education today. It is always a huge headache for University students to purchase expensive textbooks that we know we will never open again. They always change the version required for the class so it’s hard to resell them. Some textbooks are very rarely used in a whole semester. Textbooks have become so successful in the digital world because they are a lot cheaper. To save money on textbooks is huge for students. Every penny adds up and digital books are substantially cheaper than a hard copy. Another key reason digital textbooks are becoming so popular is the convience factor. You have theability to store thousands of books inside an ipad or iphone that is a fraction of the size of one textbook. Another good reason why textbooks are so successful in the digital world is our increased attention to our environmental footprint. With the shift from purchasing textbooks to digital we are saving thousands of trees. The big winners on this shift is everyone except the book publishers and printers. They won’t be making as much money on the sale of the book. Professors, students, and anyone requiring access to textbooks will benefit greatly.

  18. Alejandro Valderrabano

    Digital textbooks have had lots of success because of two main reasons:
    Lower costs: A digital copy is much cheaper to make than a printed one, as well as the right to own the book for a limited time is another factor that cuts down the cost.
    Portability: The capacity to take these books in one single electronic device that can now replace big clunky books that before used to take much space and be heavy on some cases, therefore portability equals convenience and comfort.

    Long term consequences are that those who print books and make a living out of this will probably have to move to new jobs or adapt to the new trend. The other consequence is that people will on some cases only have books for limited amounts of time and not forever, however most people rarely refer back to previous books since we are already overloaded with information. Winners are the writers as well as digital publishers, loosers are those who live off the printing business and some people who would rather get books used and keep them forever.

  19. brett pudwell

    I am a student currently enrolled in university and I have never had an e textbook before. Just this last year I am beginning to see that some of the books I am required to purchase are being offered in a digital format, which is about half the price of a regular text. I don’t really like reading off of computer screens for long periods of time and I would find it inconvenient to have to carry my laptop around everywhere I needed my books so I have continued to buy the hard copies. With the tablet computers such as iPad and Kindle becoming as sophisticated and useful as they are, I believe it is just a matter of time before I make the switch. If I had an iPad and could keep all my text books on there that would be very helpful. Besides the convenience factor, an idea of an interactive text that helps me learn is very exciting. I believe that this is the future of schoolwork and I do hope that it comes sooner than later so I can be a part of it.

  20. Moire Hogg

    Digital textbooks have become successful in today’s marketplace due to several factors. Our culture, including people young and old, have grasped on to and value the access to the mobile technology that provides them with not only entertainment, but access to whatever they need with a click of a button or a swipe of the finger. This infectious addiction to this technology has caused education publishers to make a shift in the products they provide to take advantage of a powerful emerging market. Other factors include the cost effectiveness of the e-textbooks, fewer bulky and heavy books to tote around and the simple fact that people tend to want to be on top of whatever the new trend is.

    For all involved in the use of digital textbooks, there are both positive and negative considerations. For the student, since digital textbooks have an expiry date and would not longer be accessible, students who would have use for a textbook in future classes would have to pay for the rental or buy the paper version at a discounted price. There is the ability to print portions of the textbook from a digital device, but that requires more time, more money and more hassle. For studying purposes, students will have to change their style from paper to digital, but with the younger generation growing up with the technology this will be less of an issue. The printing companies will experience a production loss. The publishers have the most to gain with the ability to sell both print and digital versions of textbooks. There is not much risk for the publisher.

    The best winner is the publisher. The student, depending on their style can both win and loose in this scenario and the printing companies have to most to loose.

  21. Yanmei Sun

    In my opinion, there are two reasons for textbooks becoming successful in digital market.The first one is about the cost.The digital textbooks are so much cheaper than paper textbooks.Also, it is good for environmental conservation.The second one is about convenience.With digital textbooks,students do not have to take heavy textbooks walking around,and they can open their textbooks anywhere and anytime they want if they can get on a internet.However, digital textbooks also have some drawbacks such as lacking of highlighting,copying and pasting properly.
    I believe that in the long run, the winner would be the online store such as Amazon and Kobo;textbook publishers;Apple Inc (iPad);and students. The losers that I think would be the traditional bookstores and printers because they won’t be making as much money on the sale of the books with those digital competitors.

  22. Brett z

    Textbooks have been extremely popular as of late in the digital market simply because of societies and as well youth’s concern over the environment. Many students, especially at the University of Lethbridge obtain Liberal or environmental views. Some students consider paper text books a waste of the environment and refuse to buy them. Others also refuse to buy them as the belief is that the textbook companies make too much profit off of printed books, however; online and electronic texts are likely more profitable. Long term consequences for textbooks entering the digital world include the major fact that users can have difficulty highligting important sections, and most importantly, the text is usually available for a short period of time. Winners in this trend continue to be the textbook companies as they have already produced the text and continue to make excessive amounts of profit. Who are the losers? Well, this is likely the student who prefers to keep their books for use in other classes or those who find studying off a computer difficult.

  23. Kelsey K

    Obviously, there are some clear benefits of digital textbooks. And clearly, cost is the number one benefit that they can offer. Being in university, it is absolutely insane how much we have to pay for a book that we sometimes don’t even use. It actually makes me sick to visit the bookstore every semester start. There are, digital books offered yes, but the way they are offered now, and the formats are not ideal for the average university class and students. In some classes, pages need to be printed, read over many times and highlighted. Some of the digital texts now only offered a certain amount of pages to be printed and highlighting is restricted in many parts of the books. However, I think that if they progress and become more user friendly, they would for sure be a better alternative just merely on cost itself. And, especially, if more than one user could access the book online.

  24. Mallory

    Digital textbooks are starting to become more popular along with the expanding and growing of the use of technology. Paper textbooks have been used for many years in schools and now with the option of digital textbooks opens up a different direction to go when purchasing textbooks. I think people are going to start buying more digital textbooks because when you start carrying more than two textbooks along with other accessories in your backpack it becomes very heavy which is no fun to carry around. Not only is it a burden to carry all that along but it then starts to cause back problems that no one wants. So with the digital textbooks you have an e-reader that you download all your textbooks onto so instead of carrying 4 different textbooks that way a ton you carry your e-reader with the four textbooks on it which is way lighter. This is what is going to give digital textbooks its’ advantage in the textbook market, and increasing its popularity. The only disadvantage is the face that you have to buy the e-reader in order to do so if you don’t already own one.

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