In this age of digitization, where everything from shopping to banking is available at the click of a button, why not access study materials? eBooks or etextbooks are not a new concept anymore. Kindle has ensured that the whole world has access to digital books. The change in reading habits or rather reading platforms, compelled print publishers to move into the digital space. As a result of which, students have hugely benefited, as digital reading makes it convenient for them to read books anytime and anywhere.
But now, rather than a convenience, it has become a necessity for students to access textbooks and educational resources on digital platforms. The reason – expensive textbooks. Print textbooks cost way more than etextbooks. And students, who are already on a limited education budget, find it extremely difficult to buy their yearly learning materials. In this situation, moving to digital textbooks or etextbooks is the only viable option.
Earlier we had posted: Will eBooks Replace Physical Textbooks in Higher Education
Why are print textbooks costly?
Think about the production process. How many hours of physical and mechanical labor do you think it takes to print one textbook? Let us consider all the factors which contribute towards the making of a printed book.
Let’s start with the basics – cutting down trees. Once they are felled, they are transported to a paper mill, there’s a wide array of processes including pulping, heating, drying and pressing, starching process, which makes printable paper. Industry experts indicate that while using the chemical pulping to produce 1 ton of printing paper approximately 24 trees are required.
Now let’s see the traditional textbook publishing process:
- The manuscript is given for copy editing. It is assessed to ensure all required elements are present.
- After reviewing the final manuscript, it goes into the design stage. The copy goes for typesetting, where the text is placed into a layout. The font style, font size, color, etc., are chosen at this stage.
- The illustrations and cover art for the book are designed.
- Post this, a sample book is printed out and sent out for final proof check to the author and editor. Any final changes in the text, layout or images must be made now.
- Once the reviewed copy is received, the index is created, front and back cover details, affiliations and author details are all created and is once again given to the author and editor for review.
- After the final review, the copy is then given for printing.
- Once published, they are shipped to the publisher’s warehouse and then they are transported to other brick and mortar stores for consumers to buy.
This entire process takes months and months of manual effort. So, from wood to paper and from manuscript to finished book – all the man-hours and efforts are somewhere included in the final price of a textbook.
And that is why etextbooks are cheaper.
Creating an etextbook is comparatively simple and easier. No paper, no printing. All you need is a computer. Using an eBook creation software, one can easily create digital textbooks with way more features and functionalities than a regular textbook. Students don’t just flip pages anymore, they get to interact and engage with the content. The minimal production process is one reason why etextbooks are cheaper than print textbooks. And educational publishers have found a way to offer it at an even lesser price – by offering etextbooks on a subscription-based model.
Also read: How to Create an Interactive eBook (Guide)
Related: 8 Best eBook Creation Software
A fine example would be Cengage, who launched their Cengage unlimited subscription pack, where students get unlimited access to their entire library of online textbooks for $119.99 for four months, $179.99 for one year, and $239.99 for two years. That’s less than half the price of the print textbooks!
Subscription-based textbook and etextbook rental services have opened a new window of possibility for educational publishers as well as students.
How does the digital textbooks subscription model work?
A subscription model focuses on customer retention rather than customer acquisition. In this model, the company sells a product/service on a monthly or yearly basis, and in the process, they retain the customer as they pay for prolonged access to the content. This guarantees sales over a 6 month or 12-month period rather than a single purchase.
Here’s an example of a successful subscription business model. Spotify, one of the leading music streaming platforms, introduced a freemium model, where users could have free etextbooks and access to the entire library, with some restrictions on downloading but otherwise a great option. Upgrading to paid at $10 a month – Spotify banked that users will prefer paying a nominal fee over piracy if the offering and user experience were excellent. Their gamble paid off – by the end of 2018, Spotify had 200 million monthly active users, with over 90 million paid subscribers.
Even Netflix, the streaming giant, grew rapidly with 120 million global subscribers, by leveraging a subscription-based business model and a smart content strategy. This tells us that educational publishers too can aim to design compelling and relevant course materials and offer a subscription package to increase their sales revenue.
Now let us have a look at the benefits of going in for an etextbook subscription service:
- Payment has to be done only for the period the student needs the textbook.
- Publishers can provide affordable eBooks for students.
- Students can save money as these services often offer eBooks at 20% of a new print book price.
- Students now have an option to browse through thousands of eBook titles. Some publishers even allow them to pick and choose specific titles from different eBooks and create customized course material.
- Students do not have to keep the physical textbooks after their term.
With so many benefits, etextbooks are definitely a preferred choice of study material. Not just because it is cost effective, but also considering other factors such as space saving, anytime access to content, shareable content, collaborative learning, interactivities, etc. etextbooks allow a more engaging learning experience as the course can be embedded with videos, audio, hyperlinks, augmented reality and more.
A subscription model is an all you can eat service where users can enjoy unlimited content for a flat fee. Students, who require multiple learning resources can benefit greatly from a subscription-based etextbook service. A lot of platforms which offer eBook subscription services allow users to try out their service before subscribing, and these eBooks can be accessed on multiple platforms such as Android, Windows, and iOS. Paying periodic subscription fees for renting a collection of books is definitely more cost-effective than paying a higher sum for single use books. This has made etextbooks cheaper than print textbooks.
Download the white paper to learn more about how US higher education publishers can make use of a subscription model.