A new whitepaper by educational software and consulting firm xplana argues that digital textbooks have reached the tipping point needed which will eventually lead to their dominance of the textbook market. The whitepaper examines numerous factors which are working in the favor of electronic textbooks and projects that in 7 years, traditional print textbooks will be overtaken by their equivalent digital formats.
In Digital Textbooks Reaching the Tipping Point in U.S. Higher Education, the author defines the tipping point as the following:
[the] point on the industry/product continuum at which current financial variables and market factors make the eventual dominance of digital over print an inevitable outcome.
The author believes that this point has been reached.
The paper has identified a series of technological innovations that have been moving at a very rapid pace, favoring the adoption of electronic textbooks in higher education in the United States.
- The popularity of the Apple iPad
- Higher than projected sales of ereader reading devices like the Kindle
- A growing textbook rental market
- The release of the ePub 3 digital format ensuring effective distribution
- The popularity of open textbook formats
All these specific technological trends have increased the adoption rates of the digital platform over traditional print.
The graph above summarizes the projected growth of electronic textbooks over the next 7 years. The author has further identified general trending behavior that has hasted the move away from print textbooks and towards digital.These are factors located within publishing, education and technology markets having a positive influence of digital sales.
- The cost of print textbooks and course materials is a strong determining factor for a student’s decision making process. Many digital texts sell for 50% of print costs.
- The availability of digital textbooks is increasing as major publishers digitize their content and small publishers realize the economic benefits of the digital realm. As many as 30% of print textbooks now are also published electronically.
- Students are buying less textbooks as they judge many books to be unnecessary. This has lead to increasing numbers of textbook sharing.
- The number of private, online learning institutions has risen greatly. Virtually all the content provided by for-profit online schools is digital.
- The growth of online retail and distribution companies is giving consumers more options and making it easier to access electronic textbooks.
- The growth of open textbooks and classes online is providing students with learning materials in digital format for free.
- The increasing popularity and affordability of tablets and ereader devices is also helping to push the demand for digital textbooks in higher educational institutions.
Digital textbooks represent an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution to meeting the needs of students in higher education. With time, economic models will begin to favor digital formatting as the expense of traditional print.