eTextbooks are, some would say, the last major eBook category to open up to active experimentation and sales development worldwide. Just over a year ago we spoke to representatives from large publishers, aggregators and academic libraries to understand: how students and faculty were using eTextbooks, if at all; how easily eTextbooks could be integrated into student, faculty and institution workflows, the extent to which eTextbooks delivered core content, cost-effectively, in a manner than enhances and expands the future of higher education and whether or not eTextbooks enabled and supported the evolution of learning and teaching methods and increased student engagement This paper looks at how far the eTextbook has moved on as both technology and understanding/usage of technology has improved. It looks at the market as it moves from print to electronic, the extent to which technology has helped or hindered success, how eTextbooks should and could be developed in line with market needs and finally, what business models will help smooth the path to success.
So to begin, for decades, the textbook has largely looked like this: Then, it began to look like this…. Now, it looks a little more like this… Getting to this point has been an interesting journey.
But first, some market background. In 2008 the digital textbook market was worth approx. $1.5bn. By 2013, it is expected to be worth approx. $4.1bn. In comparison, the eBook market is worth today approx $9.5 bn – far exceeding eTextbooks. Similarly, in terms of numbers sold, Amazon announced last Spring that its ebooks outsold its printed hardbacks by 1.43 to 1. Barnes and Noble also announced that their ebooks outsold their printed books by 3 to 1. (source 1 The Future of the Textbook Marketplace, Outsell May 2010)
A key contributory factor to the rise in ebooks is, of course, the vast sales of ereaders and iPads. Since ereaders hit the market in 2007, they have revolutionised the way books are now accessed and read. In 2010 alone, more than 19 million ereaders were sold. Similarly, more than 18 million tablets were sold in 2010 of which iPad accounted for 15 million units. By 2013, market analysts expect sales figures to treble to 150 million ereader units and 100 million tablets.
Yet eTextbooks are not experiencing the same growth as eBooks; indeed sales of printed textbooks are still going strong, growing from 48% to 74% since 2008. So what’s going on? There still seems to be an inherent fondness for the printed textbook. As noted by studies conducted by JISC and BISG students prefer to use printed textbooks over their digital equivalents, citing permanence, look and feel and ability to re-sell as key influencing factors. Subject area too impacts on decisions to purchase print or eTextbooks. For example, medical or postgraduate students need permanent reference copies that they can refer to throughout their studies and for this purpose, print books are the best. But for fast-paced subjects such as engineering, access to the latest information is critical and this is where eTextbooks lend themselves perfectly. Cost also plays a key part. While eTextbooks are typically up to 60% cheaper than new printed textbooks, the second hand textbook market is strong, with discounts of up to 90% discounts available from eRetailers such as Amazon. At a time when student budgets are under increasing pressure from rising tuition fees, such an option is attractive even if the texts are not as up to date as one would like. Additionally, book rental models are proving popular (Chegg, CourseSmart’s eTextbook rentals et al) offering up to date textbooks for a fraction of the new printed price.
Similarly, there is still a lack of adopted texts available in electronic form although this is changing. Faculty are not bound by format when it comes to choosing texts for their courses; they want the best and will choose the book based on content and relevance. HE is culturally slow to adapt to change so this too may be impacting the rate with which eTextbooks are adopted and used. BUT the eTextbook market is expected to implode, so where will this boost come from?
One area where the market can boost take up of eTextbooks is in partnerships. Publishers are already beginning to partner with institutions to provide eTextbooks for courses, the price of which are included in the overall tuition fees (i.e. University of Phoenix). This trend is likely to continue as institutions look more to materials-inclusive pricing to address the rising cost of tuition fees. For publishers, there is greater pressure to reduce price at the same time as lower production costs, so such partnerships can provide win-win situations: the publisher achieves a 100% adoption rate (over the typical 30% adoption rate for printed texts) and the institution can keep budgets manageable by providing course materials at the start of the school year. LMS providers are also entering into arrangements with publishers to package content with learning tools, such as McGraw Hill and Blackboard where students and faculty can use their Blackboard Learn logins to access the full suite of content and tools available on McGraw-Hill’s Connect. While traditionally it has been the major publishers that have lead the development of textbooks and maintained the integrity of academic content, the digital age is allowing new players to enter the market and create materials from the plethora of content that is already available electronically. As an example, CK-12 Foundation submitted 7 of their created “Flexbooks” to the California Learning Resource Network for state textbook adoption in maths and science and all met the state’s academic content standards and were accepted. Also the increase in open source content that is available from groups such as Curriki, College Open Textbooks and the California Open Source Textbook Project is challenging traditional publishing models by providing freely accessible content and resources to teachers and lecturers in the US and beyond. Whilst the majority of these projects so far are concentrating on the K12 and FE/college markets, studies conducted by HE bodies in the US and internationally indicate that HE have also actively explored eTextbook usage and demand and its impacts for learning and study.
But before we look at the development of the eTextbook, its worth looking more at the findings of the JISC national e-books observatory project in particular. The study explored usage and demand of eBooks across 120 UK HE institutions during 2007-2010 representing 52,000 student and academic users. Qualitative and quantitative data on e-book user behaviours was collected to measure the impact of making e-books freely available at the point of use on both the publisher’s print sales and library circulation figures. The findings are possibly as one might expect. More than two-thirds of faculty and users are using eBooks in their day to day work or study; more than 50% respondents access these ebooks via their institution library; use of eTextbooks is linked to the teaching and assessment calendar but barriers such as inability to print from ebooks / etextbooks plus slow access speeds etc. are hindering usage.
And that’s not surprising given there are so many ….
and even more operating systems for smartphones and tablets…
So it goes without saying that eTextbooks need to be compatible with all these systems as well as with emerging systems to ensure success. Which leads us on then to how should the eTextbook be developed in line with user needs? Perhaps to answer this successfully, we need to get back to basics and understand fundamentally how a textbook is used. A student will: Write in their textbook Turn down pages Highlight passages
So its not surprising to see that findings from usage studies conducted by Cengage and Project Tomorrow found that the most required features for eTextbooks are: Ability to personalise books with notes and highlights Inclusion of videos, podcasts, audio etc. to make the content and the lecture “come alive” Inclusion of self-assessment tools Inclusion of lecture presentations and other supporting materials Links to real-time data such as Google Earth, NASA etc Ability to tap into an online tutor whenever necessary What is missing though is the ability to print and copy from eTextbooks which is at odds with the findings of the JISC study. We also found from the study that Maverick conducted towards the end of 2010 that publishers and faculty believe that the ability to print and copy from eTextbooks is an essential requirement. So rather than assuming that this is no longer the case, what this seems to tell us is that printing and copying are not viewed as features of the eTextbooks – they are an expectation of the functionality of an eTextbook. So while publishers (quite rightly) want to protect misuse of their content, not meeting these basic expectations quashes opportunities to ensure success of their digital products.
Looking at how eTextbooks could be developed, referring again to JISC’s observatory project, the usage of eBooks was found to be very much that same as for dictionaries or encyclopedias, namely for quick fact extraction and brief viewing. Users still prefer printed books for extended reading times. Such usage would indicate a lower price point making it difficult for publishers to recoup the high investment costs incurred in creating digital textbooks with the required features. And a final blow, perhaps, to eTextbooks is that during the study, there were no considerable impacts on printed textbook sales. And as we noted earlier, printed textbook sales are still expected to increase year on year. So is such an investment worth the effort?
In essence, yes! Usage studies frequently show that bottlenecks occur whenever printed course texts are unavailable from libraries (not to mention increased student anxieties!), so access to eTexts on a 24/7 basis provides a good solution. Also as mobile device use increases, so too will the expectation of today’s student to access everything they can remotely – after all, they can access music, go shopping and speak to friends wherever and whenever they want, so this expectation will spill into their academic life too. And while mobile phones are not likely to be the device of choice for content, tablets are fast emerging as suitable alternatives to laptops. And as new models become available, affordability is within greater reach as prices are driven down (e.g. Kindle Fire launched in the US November 2011 at $199).
The digital environment also presents greater opportunities to improve student performance and learning outcomes, as found by studies such as that conducted by Cengage. Additionally, it enables publishers and faculty to seize opportunities to monitor student behaviour and adapt business and learning models to reflect this. For example, publishers could monitor the length of time students spend looking at eTextbook chapters and provide a pop-up to suggest that further recommended reading if they appear to spend longer on a chapter than average. Also, faculty could monitor how their students are using course materials, if at all, and adapt materials or schedules accordingly. Development is most likely to be driven by subject area as mentioned previously but for the forseeable future at least, we should expect a hybrid world of print textbooks for relatively static subjects and eTextbooks (or supporting e-resources) for faster-paced subjects.
But as digital textbooks are created, and non-publishers enter the market and develop products, to what extent is the market concerned with potential “poor” quality content becoming available? And will the availability of many new players mean a wider proliferation of sub-quality products? Not necessarily was the response from Maverick’s own market study as the internet introduced poor quality content to the world long before the inception of eTextbooks. Determining what is quality content still remains the responsibility of faculty, librarians and publishers; faculty will only use content that is important and of good quality for their courses, so the market will naturally filter out poor content. But students “natural” referral to Google and Wikipedia when searching for information highlights the need to provide quality digital information. Students have always read “off list” and will continue to do so. But while we know that Google, Wikipedia etc do not have rigorous quality control measures, the student does not so eTextbooks can address this if developed in line with student behaviours and expectations.
And the technology already exists to develop eTextbooks in line with student and learning needs; after all faculty have been creating course packs in place of textbooks for years using a variety of different content types. Textbooks can already be broken up to become a series of objects to allow faculty to include specific chapters alongside peripheral online reading from articles, videos, audio etc. to present a package of information. For example, Flat World Knowledge’s Make it Your Own (MIYO) feature and MacMillan’s Dynamic Books supports this ability by allowing faculty to tailor course materials to their own requirements and include video, images, web links, and open education resources. Similarly Cengage Learning’s MindTap lets students and faculty store and access their digital assets regardless of device plus it includes learning and assessment tools and discussion forums to facilitate communication between tutors and students.
Alternatively, textbooks in themselves could become mini-websites with rich functionality and content that students can dive into as and when course modules dictate. Their format could adopt a Google or Wikipedia style to appeal to students and content could be protected through password access etc.
We should also touch on social media in the development of the eTextbook and whether or not it has a role. The tools mentioned so far account for a good proportion of the features that an eTextbook should include but as students lives increasingly become entangled with social media, we asked publishers and faculty in Maverick’s study to what extent they thought social media could be used in eTextbook development. We found that while companies such as social media and communications platform, ConnectYard, are developing solutions that provide a hub which social network channels and learning management systems can plug into, to date, there is no significant evidence that social media has had an impact on the use of eTextbooks. And while faculty are happy to communicate with their students online using email or Learning Management Systems etc, they are not embracing social media sites. Similarly, although students communicate via these sites with their friends or classmates, the social space is still seen as exactly that: a way of engaging socially rather than a way of engaging with tutors.
Finally, the latest player in the market - Apple iBooks – has the potential to create great waves across education. Combining books from major publishers such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson (albeit K12 content initially), Apple iBooks also includes authoring software for educators to create “mini books” of all their notes, slides, and other teaching materials to support core texts. iBooks Author is similar in approach to MacMillan’s DynamicBooks but its arrival signals that the “big guys” are getting involved in mash-ups. Of course the key is volume and Apple are most probably using this software to help drive more sales of their iPad and iPod hardware, as it did with iTunes. There has also been s ome criticism that iBooks content is only accessible via Apple devices. B ut if you look across campuses today you’ll see a high % of students with iPads, even though they are expensive – at the moment. In the US in particular, this % looks set to rise as issues around funding and internet connections are addressed over the next couple of years. In essence, schools will be able to use almost unlimited federal funding to purchase broadband accounts for tablet devices. The carriers will then subsidize the devices as they do with phones down the point where any school can afford them. So a school will be able to purchase a device with a unlimited internet connection, from any location, for next to nothing. Combine this with availability of very low cost, quality textbooks for those devices and schools will have a great solution that is affordable within their current budgets. While K12 is the focus for this at present, if successful, it will undoubtedly move to HE content.
Most recently, a new study conducted among College students and High School seniors in the US by The Pearson Foundation reveals that students believe tablets and other mobile devices will transform learning. Tablet ownership tripled among college students (25% vs. 7% in 2011) and quadrupled among high school seniors (17% vs. 4% in 2011). The survey reveals that more students are reading digital books, and that a majority of students believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks within the next five years. Digital readership has continued to grow since last year's survey. Seventy percent of college students have read a digital text, compared to 62% in 2011, and the majority of students now prefer digital to print. Nearly all college student tablet owners believe these devices are valuable for educational purposes (90%). Three-quarters of college student tablet owners use tablets daily for school-related activities; three in five say they use their tablet for school purposes multiple times a day.
So in summary, it is likely that the future of the eTextbook will be an evolutionary process. Speed of adoption and take up will depend on a number of factors such as subject area, accessibility and the availability of core texts in digital form. Additionally, cost will have an impact and it is as yet unclear which business model will be best to support purchases of eTextbooks. Students still expect the library to provide access to all their study materials although if US trends are indicative, then this may change over time. But budget pressures will continue to be an issue for students so the solution could be for institutions to adopt materials-included pricing strategies as well as allocating print budget to digital equivalents. Perhaps Patron Driven Acquisition should also be considered. But for the time being at least, the journey of the eTextbook continues to be in for some interesting times ahead.
1. The Future of the eTextbook Sara Killingworth UKSG March 2012
2. The Future of the eTextbook• Summary: – The market – from “p” to “e” – Development of eTextbooks – What does the future hold?
3. The Future of the eTextbook
4. The Market from “P” to “E”
5. Ebooks Are Here• eTextbook market – Worth $1.5bn in 20081 – Expected to grow to $4.1bn by 20131• eBook market: – Worth $9.5bn in 2010• eBooks will outsell printed books this year at major retailersThe Future of the Textbook Marketplace, Outsell May 20101
6. The market – from “p” to “e”• Estimated 19.5 million eReaders sold in 20101• 18 million tablets sold in 2010; – 15 million were iPads2• 2013, market expected to look like: – 150 million eReaders sold – 100 million tablets3• Tablet/eReader eBook sales to reach $9.7bn by 20164Source: 1New York Times, October 2011; 2Los Angeles Times, November 2010; 3intomobile, November 2010, 4intomobile, October 2011
7. The market – from “p” to “e”• But printed textbook sales still growing• Students still prefer printed textbooks – Look, feel, permanence and ability to resell key factors• Subject area affects need for permanent reference copies• Cost – Second hand books still cheaper? – Book rental options?
8. The market – from “p” to “e”• Faculty want quality, selecting texts based on content relevant for course rather than format• Lack of adopted titles in e-form• Culture of HE?• BUT eTextbook market is set to implode
9. The market – “p” to “e”• Partnerships: – Institutions migrating to materials-inclusive pricing – LMS / publisher agreements• Non-publisher created textbooks/materials: – Institutions are “doing it for themselves” – Open Source content and resources• eTextbook usage and demand studies conducted by HE-funded bodies
10. The market – “p” to “e”• Key findings of the JISC usage study: – 65% of users use ebooks to support work / study – 50%+ respondents stated that the library was the source for the last ebook they used – Use of eTextbooks seasonal, linked to teaching / assessment calendar – 1/3 of all eBook pages viewed off campus at all times of the day – Flexibility and convenience of eBooks valued – Use hindered by platform limitations, e.g. printing, downloading and slow access speeds
11. eBook platforms…
12. Operating systems…• Android • OMFGB• Bada • Openmoko Linux• Baidu Yi • OPhone• BlackBerry OS • Palm• BlackBerry Tablet OS • SHR• CyanogenMod • Smarterphone• GGDFS • Symbian Foundation• iPhone • Symbian• iOS • Tizen• MeeGo • TouchWiz• Meltemi • Ubuntu Mobile• MIUI • Windows• Mobile operating system • WebOS• Nokia OS
13. Basic requirements• Accessible across all platforms and OS• Getting back to basics – understanding how the textbook is fundamentally used: – Write in the book – Turn down pages – Highlight passages
14. Basic requirements• Key features required for eTextbooks: – Personalise books with notes and highlights – Inclusion of self assessment tools – Inclusion of lecture presentations and support materials – Links to real time data – Ability to tap into an online tutor when needed – Access to videos, audio, podcasts to bring the text alive• What about printing and copying?
15. Development of eTextbooks
16. Development of eTextbooks• Ebooks mostly used for quick fact finding: – 85% users spent less than a minute on each page – Only 5% spent 5 minutes or more on a page – Printed books preferred for extended reading• Usage would suggest expectation of a lower price point• Study found no considerable impact on printed textbook sales throughout the usage trial• Is this usage worth the investment in audio, video etc to support text content?
17. Development of eTextbooks• Bottlenecks in libraries when printed course texts “out on loan”• Increased use of mobile devices among students• Tablets emerging as alternative access devices to laptops – Prices being driven down – Ubiquitous nature of student lifestyles
18. Development of eTextbooks• Interactive tools increase student engagement and learning outcomes• Usage statistics – Online environment offers greater potential to monitor usage and increase sales/usage – Faculty can use tools to “see” what their students are doing and which non-recommended texts are being used• Development likely to be driven by subject• Hybrid world will exist for foreseeable future
19. Development of eTextbooks• What about content quality?• eTextbooks still created by companies of professionals; but• Students increasingly refer to Wikipedia / Google• eTextbooks can address this if developed in line with user behaviours and expectations
20. Development of eTextbooks• Faculty already create course packs using different content types• Textbooks can be broken up into chapters, included alongside articles, videos, audio• Flat World Knowledge MIYO feature• Dynamic Books• MindTap
21. Development of eTextbooks• Develop eTextbooks as mini-websites• Include rich functionality and different content types• Google-style access (which students like)• Access can be controlled via password
22. Development of eTextbooks• Social media in eTextbook development• Would it improve learning outcomes? – Faculty communicate with students via email, LMS etc – Students communicate with friends via social networking• ConnectYard, hub to connect social networking channels and LMS systems
23. Development of eTextbooks• Apple iBooks 2 – Feature materials from McGraw-Hill, Pearson and others – Authoring software to create own eTextbooks – Only accessible via Apple devices – Option to create PDF versions of content for access on other devices• Android and others will release competing products• Prices will decrease as market matures• US seeing a shift to supply devices with broadband accessibility
24. Development of eTextbooks• Pearson Foundation Study: – Tablet ownership trebled for college students; quadrupled for high school seniors – 70% students reading digital texts – 75% students use tablets daily for learning – Believe eTextbooks will replace print within 5 years
25. eTextbooks – the future?
26. eTextbooks – the future?• Evolutionary process – Speed of adoption likely to depend on subject – Ease of access and use• Which business model will out? – Individual student purchases? – Materials-included based fees? – All library budget absorbed by digital materials? – PDA?