The state of the US higher education market looks slightly subdued on account of the fact that the government has reduced funding for higher education. The budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year requested an approximate $7.1 billion cut in funding for the education department, compared to a 10% decrease in 2019. So, the universities are finding it difficult to manage their operating costs.
This has led to higher education textbook publishers facing the brunt as that’s the only area where students and institutes can reduce their spends, by opting for digital textbooks instead. Students have welcomed this change as they now have a multitude of choice in the digital learning space. A few innovative digital publishers are offering eBooks at a fraction of the cost charged by print publishers.
This led higher education textbook publishers to shift towards digital publishing, albeit reluctantly as they learned that digital is the only way forward. But they soon found out that competing with already existing eBook publishers is quite a challenge. Big names in the publishing industry like Cengage and Pearsons have already moved to digital publishing and have built their loyal customer base.
For those who are newly exploring the digital market, keeping up with the trends which change rapidly is difficult. With new technology constantly evolving with new and enhanced features to improve the student learning experience, textbook publishers needed to keep up with them.
In order to offer the latest and updated course material to higher education students. But first, they needed to build a customer base by providing better deals and high quality and relevant learning materials.
Here are some of the top trends that higher education textbook publishers must follow to increase their digital sales:
1. Switch to Digital Publishing:
There’s no escaping the digital revolution. In spite of declining print sales, some publishers are still reluctant to make the shift. A lot of big names in the publishing industry have had to restructure business operations due to the decreasing number of print book sales. In such a scenario, digital publishing is the only practical choice available.
As the user base is mainly dominated by digital natives, providing them courses on a digital platform will help you adapt to the changing environment and get higher education students to leverage your eBooks. Some publishers prefer to have digital as well as print businesses running simultaneously, with more focus on digital of course.
This could be seen as a move to keep the revenues coming in from both sides. Switching over to digital publishing will also reduce the loss from unsold books. Publishers can opt to print copies of textbooks only if there is a demand, thus saving costs.
2. Allow Students to Customize Course Materials:
Allow them to pick and choose the chapters that they believe will help them learn better. Providing this option gives them the freedom to select and buy chapters from eBooks that they require.
Rather than giving out a default collection of chapters in every eBook, let them choose their own learning resources and create personalized learning materials. This chapter-based content selection will enable higher education students to take and combine specific learning content that suits their learning needs.
3. Collaborate with Industry Experts:
There seems to be a massive mismatch between employer needs and student skills. Employers feel that the skills gained by graduating students are not industry oriented. For example, students graduating with a computer science degree might not know to code in real life. It is difficult to bridge the skill gap with outdated courses being taught at universities.
So, in order to tackle this problem, the higher education textbook publishers need to tie up with employers. The employers can then guide them into curating content that is industry-relevant. This will help the students to be skilled in areas which are actually required by employers. Publishers, educational institutes and enterprises can all collaborate and design a curriculum which will help students gain knowledge about various skills required in the current job market.
4. Offer Textbooks on Rent:
Cost is a major factor which determines whether students would opt for your eBook or not.
According to a survey by McKinsey, there has been a steady growth in the textbook rental market, significantly affecting the new textbook sales in recent years. Companies like Chegg, eFollett, and BookRenter are offering new textbooks on rent for less than the price of a used book.
This comes as a money-saving opportunity for students who usually have to spend a lot on new textbooks every year.
Digital publishers can leverage this approach to increase their eBook sales by allowing students to rent etextbooks for a limited time period.
5. Offer Subscription Services:
In a subscription-based model, publishers can provide eBooks at a particular rate for a limited time period. Cengage recently started the Cengage Unlimited subscription model, where it offers unlimited access to various digital textbooks and course materials at less than half the price of a new book.
Today, a lot of companies offer subscription-based services. The idea behind it is to give unlimited access to resources at a specific cost for a specific period. The subscribers benefit by getting more content at a comparatively lesser price.
Educational publishers can use this model to increase their digital revenues. By providing learning materials at a low price on a subscription basis, they can get more students to subscribe to their eBook packages. This will provide students an opportunity to choose a subscription package that suits their budget and receive affordable study materials.
6. Introduce eLearning Apps:
Mobile apps have seen a surge in recent years. It’s a must-have for every service provider to reach out and stay in touch with their audience. By introducing an application and making it available on an eStore, publishers can allow students to use the app to browse through the various eBooks offered.
Students can buy their digital materials directly from the eStore. These apps will give students access to a number of eBooks. They can look for the best deals online by comparing the prices of different eBooks offered by different publishers.
7. Market eBooks Effectively:
Publishers now need to focus on their marketing strategies to increase the sales of their digital course materials. They have to market and sell their products directly to students. From a business perspective, they have to think of ways to promote their products effectively.
Publishers can do so by visiting universities and conducting sessions to create awareness of their product and their offerings. Students are bound by a limited budget. If they find that your eBooks are engaging and interesting, you have got your new consumer base. Now you only need to retain them by offering the best deals and try to acquire new customers.
The changing competitive and marketplace demands have forced traditional textbook publishers to move into the digital space. And this shift turned out to be quite beneficial for educational publishers as well as the students. Students who are already spending their time on phones and tablets, find it easier and convenient to access their courses on the same device.
Not to mention, it comes at a way cheaper price than their print counterparts. And with additional features like audio and video resources, different assessment techniques and other elements like a bookmark, search feature, page curl, etc., students are able to engage with the course content.
The textbook publishing industry will see a dramatic change in the coming years, as higher education textbook publishers opt for digital methods to offer compelling, engaging and cost-effective textbooks.