On Digital Textbooks: Fun Facts, Projections, and Possibilities

The cost of textbooks has driven every college student crazy. They’re pricey, new editions flow from the textbook pipeline with great frequency, and schlepping a backpack full of them across campus every day is exhausting. Printing textbooks (or anything, for that matter) is expensive, so it makes lots of sense for digital textbooks to take big bites out of print textbook market share, especially with the emergence of powerful tablet computers that can store a small mountain of textbooks digitally. Let users simply download educational materials; and enhance the learning, researching, and note-taking experience for students. It doesn’t hurt that a tablet weighs a fraction of what a stack of printed books does either and there are all sorts of efficiencies in distribution here, obviously.

OnlineEducation.net, a site that seeks to provide a comprehensive resource for those trying to decide which and what type of college to attend and how those options stack up in their desired subject area, released an infographic about digital versus print textbooks. The infographic has plenty of interesting items, including projections for the digital textbook market in the coming years.

The chart predicts that digital textbooks will begin to more aggressively cannibalize print sales. In 2010, for example, digital textbooks held just 1% of the market; in 2011, that number grew to 2.5%, and by 2014, it should be 18.8%, which will cause print textbook sales to drop to 85% of its current level.

There was a 400% increase in digital textbook sales between 2008 and 2009, and by 2010, 42% of all students had purchased or seen one. The textbook industry had $7.5 billion in sales (which year was not specified), with $5.5 billion of that total coming from new books. How might digital textbooks impact those figures? If nothing else, they cost 53% less than print editions.

In terms of how users will get digital textbooks, it’s obvious: tablets. Perhaps schools will start distributing tablets to incoming students on day one (some are already trying this out), but regardless, an increasing number of students will be bringing a tablet to school.

The infographic looks into the near future a bit to imagine what would be very reasonably possible with digital textbooks on tablets, including apps to enhance note-taking, paper-writing, studying, reading, and gathering research in addition to built-in extras such as inline quizzes, animated content including interactive elements, games, and study group video chats. Digital textbooks probably won’t stop publishers from releasing new editions of textbooks every six months, and it’s possible that prices won’t drop either, as developing all those sweet extra features won’t be free. Still, in terms of environmental concerns, practicality, and increased features, digital textbooks make tons of sense.

Besides, it’s a great reason to convince your parents to buy you a tablet.
LLeCompte 2 years ago

i can see digital text books taking off, only thing is that you cant sell it back once you are done with it. when i was in college i would buy and sell my books on amazon. If they come up with a way to sell your books after you buy them or sell them so cheap and even after selling your books back you still lose money, that would be really awesome.

cowboyspace 2 years ago

That will save a lot of trees that had been cut down ,no more heavy backpack with those books, new technique, more jobs :)

MayhemMatthew 2 years ago

When I ws at Uni, I never used the textbooks I bought. Often times the sme, sometimes better informtion ws lredy vilble online and worst cse, the librry lwys keeps t lest one copy on hnd.

AKwyn 2 years ago

Well it's certainly an interesting argument, almost the same as the argument for digital movies or even music but I don't think schools would be wise to invest in an all digital system; I'm assuming that most users who want them would only want it because it's a hit item to have at the moment. While the benefits seem to be appreciable, it doesn't necessarily make up for the flaws such as unexpected loss of data, sudden server outages and device failures. I personally think that the E-Reader should remain personal and should not try to take the place of books in libraries.

At least with books you can keep them mostly forever, all of the data will still be there, you don't have to worry about anything electronic failing and if humanity needs to be rebuilt then we have these books to help us.

imAcpufan 2 years ago

I'm in my third year of animation at college and this year they made it mandatory for first years to purchase an iPad. The argument is to support increased use of digital textbooks. And since they have macs at school the iPad was their choice of tablet. I'm Personally more interested in the transformer prime so I'm glad I missed the mandatory iPad. I have a few digital copies of textbooks which help lighten my backpack when I'm lugging around stacks of paper, although there are times when a hardcopy can't be beat.

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