New Technology And Its Effects On Education And The Textbook Market

Over the next five years, with the introduction of iPads, digital textbook sales in the US will make up almost 20 percent of new textbook sales. This could mean big changes for a number of people.

In a six minute piece (yes… I know… six minutes…) I explain how new technology devices, such as the iPad, are impacting education in higher education classrooms. I also explain how it is affecting textbook companies.

I realize the piece should have been split into two, but due to, well we’ll just call it a complication, this wasn’t done. I also wasn’t going for your typical one minute thirty second news package.

A few problems I ran into was for one, my voice. I had a sinus infection and barely had a voice (just in case you were wondering why I sounded weird). My main problem though was coming up with video to help tell the story. With only shots of the iPad and textbooks I found it difficult to give the viewer a good grasp on the information I was giving them. It can be very distracting when I’m talking about one thing and the video doesn’t exactly match up to what I’m saying. It was also challenging to find ways to present the statistics.

This story was done over the span of a couple of days, and if I had the chance I would go back and make plenty of changes. Since this isn’t possible, I hope as I cover different consumer/business/technology stories I will learn from my mistakes and improve on the things that make these types of stories great.

Read the script below:

“We capture that so we can show the students the formula that the instructors talking about.”

Educational Technology Director and Professor Marc Strid sees it everyday in the classroom…. students locking into new technology and using it for educational purposes. One of those tools is digital textbooks.

“They’re here right now and it’s just basically that the publishers have to get a better handle on the business model they’re going to use. I know that they’re already publishers that are doing this, renting the books. But I think you’re going to see that rather quickly as the devices are now ready for us to use.” –Marc Strid

With the introduction of the iPad this year, educators expect to see more and more digital textbooks in their classrooms. For Strid he sees this as a positive in the learning environment.

“I think well managed, and if they’re utilized for collaborative learning for instance in the classroom then they’re not a distraction, then they’re a tool.” – Marc Strid

According to Xplana, a web based service that partners with textbooks companies and publishers to create digital textbooks and e-books, digital textbooks currently represent .5 percent of the overall textbook market. By 2014, digital textbooks will represent 18 percent of all new Higher Education textbook sales. By the end of the decade, digital textbooks are expected to make up more than half of the entire market.

“10 years from now we project the e or digital textbook market to be much more than 50 percent, as high as 75 percent at which point the vast majority of all the learning materials out there will be digital and that not only revolutionizes what we call the publishing industry today, but we have a dramatic impact on the way we do university teaching.”- Rob Reynolds, Director of Product Design and Research at Xplana

Reynolds says the popularity of digital textbooks are starting to pick up for a number of reasons.

“We are all aware of how expense textbooks in general are becoming, publishers are trying to take advantage of this by making materials available at a lower cost. One of those ways that publishers are doing this is by providing e-textbooks or digital textbooks and many of them provide digital textbooks about a 60, about 50 to 60 percent at the cost of new print textbook. Well a lot of students because of the cost pressures are taking advantage of that.” – Rob Reynolds

Although publishers are selling digital textbooks to students for half the price of print textbooks, CourseSmart and MBS Direct says only 20 percent of print textbooks are available in digital textbook format. As more titles become available, as more technological devices are introduced, and as the cost pushes students towards buying digital textbooks, rapid growth will occur.

“If you track trends right now, starting today you’re running over 100 percent growth per year. That’s very significant because at that point digital textbooks represent a significant piece of the overall textbook publishing industry that they pirate print textbooks sales significantly and they have a dramatic impact on how textbooks are actually created, distributed, ect.” –Rob Reynolds

Textbook companies and publishers are having to jump on board with the concept of digital textbooks. Currently digital textbooks are created at the end of the production cycle of print textbooks. This process could be reversed as the digital textbook market takes over, but it’s a delicate process.

“If you don’t do it at the right time and you get caught in the wrong part of the cycle, your costs are going to so far outweigh your revenues, you’re going to be losing revenue on your print that you’re going to have a lot of trouble. Some publishers could be really adversely affected, those who take advantage of it and get on the right side of it are going to be very successful.” –Rob Reynolds

Established textbook companies are also on the lookout for up and coming competitors. This world of digital textbooks is opening doors to new publishing houses like Flat World Knowledge and Lulu Existing.

“It’s every business, every companies job responsibility to keep up, to get ahead, and to adapt to the market. If you don’t you don’t make it.” –Rob Reynolds

Digital textbooks mean change for textbooks companies and change for students, but not every aspect of digital textbooks is so glamorous.

“We’re concerned about the digital divide where students are going to have the resources to buy both a laptop and an iPad. That’s why I’m excited about the possibility of having loaners or ones that could be provided to students that can’t afford to buy one.” – Marc Strid

“Some people don’t trust it yet, it’s understandable” – Ken Boehlke Microcomputer Sales Consultant

How is Apple pushing the concept of its new iPad and digital textbooks then?

“They believe this is a platform for delivering content more, less expensively to students, more interactively to students. It sounds like a win-win for the textbook publishers and for Apple.” – Mike McKean MU Associate Professor and Director of Futures Lab

Some industry analysts predict the iPad will sell more units than the entire e-reader market combined. The research group iSuppli projects Apple to sell more than 7.1 million iPads in 2010. Sales are expected to double to 14.4 million in 2011 and in 2012 sales will nearly triple to 20.1 million. By 2014 they believe students will most prefer the iPad and the upcoming Android tablets over any other computing device.

So as the rapid growth of digital textbook sales continues, Strid feels the excitement of what this could bring to student learning.

“Often times the benefit is not in an increase grade point, maybe it’s increased engagement in the classroom and maybe as a result of that they retain that knowledge a little bit longer, but we know students are engaged by these devices because we’ve done a lot of survey work and we know that they like more technology in their teaching learning process, so I don’t think there is going to be a resistance to that. I don’t think there is a lack of benefit by providing more technology in the teaching environment. I think it’s a win-win situation.” –Marc Strid

But in order for the win-win to take place, students, teachers, and the textbook industry will all have to adapt to these changes together at the same time.


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