Will college book stores ever go out of business? Some might think, yes! Digital books have become one of the most current popular items this year for students across North America. Various companies have recently published statistics providing the idea that paper textbooks won’t be around for much longer.
Some organizations like Student Monitor—a private student market research company based out of New Jersey, has shared that an incredible “5% of all textbooks” bought over the typical fall term within the U.S. were actually digital. “This is more than double the 2.1% of the spring term,” of the same year.
Similarly, Simba Information—a publishing research company—amazingly believes that “electronic textbooks will generate about $267.3 million this year” alone in sales; that is only in the U.S. If Simba Information is correct, this will be a whopping 44.3% over the last year. Another fierce prediction on Simba Information’s part is the belief that digital textbooks will make up 11% of the textbook market revenue by only 2013. The American Association of Publishers says that the college textbook market has already generated a very large “$4.58 billion in sales last year”.
With statements like these, how could large firms not want to jump in on the action? Amazon announced this year that for the first time, their digital books outsold their paper books. Because of this outcome, Amazon will now partner with three other firms and will reduce the renting period to as low as 30 days; then they will expire. This will also lower the price of digital textbooks up to 80% as compared to a brand new paper textbook.
Digital textbooks will not only be changing with expiring textbooks, but also by re-focusing their main targets. Freshman college students will now be a big deal. By focusing on entering college students, digital textbooks will be able to target a wider variety of people while still only focusing on core- class textbooks. This, they hope, will grab a younger audience and keep them to use the digital books throughout their life or at least until their student life.
Two examples of firms which will target this audience range are Chegg (a big-time textbook rental company in the U.S), and CourseSmart (a partnership of five major U.S. textbook publishers). Chegg has only started renting out digital books this year because of the huge possibility that digital books will be popular. CourseSmart, on the other-hand, has just released their plan to take their digital project “overseas this year”. Each company is able to see that this industry is growing, and they both want part of it.
One large factor changing this industry is tablets. The popularity of tablets such as the iPad and Kindle has changed the growth of digital books. Digital books and these tablets complement each other. If the sales for Kindles go up, so will the sales for digital books. A negative look at this is the loss of employment of “middle men” and bookstore owners overtime. An Increase in digital books will contribute greatly to a decrease in paper books; and a decrease in “middle men” jobs.
Either way, digital is the way of the modern world—whether most people like it or not. It is a way to lighten the load of carrying textbooks, and life. It is a way to stop wasting paper in our current environmental- friendly ways. However, can we sacrifice loss of employment for these “goods” of life?
(Gyawali is at Westminster College Salt Lake City, Utah, majoring in Economics. She is a Sophomore, 2nd year)