E-Textbooks Not Taking Off: Lesson for Trade Publishers

shutterstock_114474988-1Publishers, educational institutions and their government observers love the idea of e-textbooks: cheaper, better and easier on the back when the alternative is carrying a backpack full of dead trees imprinted with information that quickly goes out of date.
Problem is students don’t love them. The proof is in the data. About 6% of students used the core e-textbook as their main course material in the fall 2012 semester, according to new data from the Book Industry Study Group, presented at the Making Information Pay for Higher Education conference produced by BISG. That’s the same percentage of students who were using e-textbooks the previous year.
The problem isn’t adoption of technology: Double the number of students have tablet computers (about a third). Less than 5% of them use the devices as their primary study device.
One insight from the new data is that students especially don’t respond well to e-textbooks that are simply digitized versions of the print editions. Herein lies the lesson for trade publishers, especially of illustrated digital titles: A straight digital reproduction of the print edition may not impress readers. Publishers should take advantage of the new medium to give readers something special, different and specific to the platform.
Read more about what’s happening in the e-textbook market here.

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Webcast: How to Create Ebooks for Tablets (DBW)
Books on tablets are no longer the the future of digital publishing; they’ve arrived. Tablet computers have moved to the head of the pack as the preferred new platform for readers. The challenge today is to create top-notch products for tablet reading. Learn basics, details and strategies for current devices in this DBW webcast.
ZA Books Launches, Wants to Sell E-Textbooks to South African Students (Times Live)
Citing all the known advantages of e-textbooks, ZA Books launched with the intention of selling educational digital titles to students in South Africa. The business could be in for a rude awakening if things don’t change soon with the e-textbook market.  
Macmillan Invests in Brazilian Educational Technology Start-ups (DBW)
Macmillan Digital Education has invested in two educational technology start-ups out of Brazil. Veduca aggregates video learning from universities around the world and Easyaula is an online educational marketplace where users can “learn anything from anyone.”

Going From InDesign to Ebook Made Easier (DBW)
Flipick is a new service that makes it relatively easy to create a fixed-layout EPUB file from Adobe InDesign. More resources on going from InDesign to ebook here.
Cue for Physical Bookselling From Online Bookselling (The Shatzkin Files)
Random House has embarked on a project to create bespoke specialty bookstores on specific online destinations that have a specific audience. Two have so far popped up – at Politico.com and Pub Lunch. Should publishers and distributors do the same in the physical world?  

Hachette Ebook Sales Level Off in 2012 (Pub Lunch)
Ebook revenue plateaued for Hachette in the U.S. in 2012. It’s still growing elsewhere. Overall sales were down, too.  
Incoming Hachette CEO Fills Vacancy He Created (DBW)
Michael Pietsch will continue to be publisher of Hachette division Little, Brown & Co. until he takes over as CEO of the whole company on April 1. At that point, Reagan Arthur, currently editorial director of Reagan Arthur Books, a Little, Brown imprint, will take over as senior vice president and publisher of the division.
Zola Loses Head of Biz Dev (DBW)
Head of business development for start-up ebook seller Zola Mary Ann Naples is leaving the company and will become vice president and publisher of Rodale Books. She will continue with Zola as an advisor.  
Hyperion Teams up With Marvel on New Book Series (PW)
Hyperion has inked a deal with sister company Marvel Entertainment (both owned by Disney) to create a new series of books that are designed to appeal to women readers. This seems to fit in with CEO Ellen Archer’s strategy to publish titles with a built in platform and to utilize Hyperion’s parent co.’s assets.

More Self-Publishing Services From Penguin (Hindu Business Line)
Penguin launched Partridge in India, a self-publishing service powered by recent acquisition Author Solutions. Like other ASI operations, it’s a pay-for-play deal for authors. Related: Penguin’s Book Country Makes Changes, Adds Features.

Writing Books, Writing Copy (The Book Designer)
Authors need to know how to write marketing copy, argues freelance writer Dana Sitar. They need to be able to write compelling social media posts, bios and more. Related: The Problem With the Way Publishers Create Marketing Copy | Building a Marketing Strategy From Scratch.

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Image Credit: woman studying image via Shutterstock


2 thoughts on “E-Textbooks Not Taking Off: Lesson for Trade Publishers

  1. Pingback: Η εκδίκηση των νεκρών δέντρων | the book paper

  2. Sam

    Interesting article. I am a college student who does use etextbooks but find many of my peers do not. I use the etextbooks via Chegg.com and also am able to get a few free ones via http://freeetextbooksonline.com but some of my friends say they simply prefer the hard copy version. I guess time will tell. Nice post.

    – Sam



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