Friday, 30 March 2012

The future of the eTextbook

Breakout Session: -Sara Killingworth, Maverick Outsource Services

Sara’s session discussed the market situation, development and possible future for eTextbooks. The data focuses on faculties and user behaviour.

Market transition from print to e:

ETextbooks are the last of the ebook category to be opened up. Sara pointed out that while they have been evolving through various mediums, they are still essentially in their original formatting.
  • The market value of eTextbooks in 2008 was $1.5bn and is expected to rise to $4.1bn by 2013.
  • In 2010 there were 19.5million ereaders sold and 18million tablets (15million were iPads). This is expected to rise to 150million ereaders and 100million tablets in 2013.

Even so, print textbook sales are still growing and students currently still prefer printed textbooks where they prefer the look, feel, permanence and ability to resell. Second hand print books are still cheaper which better suits a student budget. There are book rental options where a license can be bought on a chapter by chapter basis.

Subject area will affect the need for a permanent reference copy. For example: medicine students will want a reference copy of a textbook they can consult all through their studies and then as they progress on to a career but engineering students will find electronic textbooks better for gathering the latest data.

Faculties tend to choose relevant content over format and there is still a lack of titles in e-form. It was commented at this stage that there has been reluctance from faculties to allow students to use tablets rather than print books as they cannot tell in lectures whether the student is working or on Facebook. Despite this, data suggests the market is set to implode.

JISC usage study findings:
  • 65% of users use ebooks to support work/study
  • 50%+ access them through the library
  • Use of eTextbooks is linked to teaching/assessment
  • Flexibility and convenience of ebooks is valued
  • Use is hindered by platform limitations such as printing/downloading and access speeds

Basic Requirements of eTextbooks:
  • Access across all platforms and operating systems
  • Ability to personalise with notations and highlighting
  • Inclusion of self assessment tools
  • Inclusion of support materials from lectures
  • Links to real time data
  • Online tutorials
  • Video/audio to liven text

Development of e Textbooks
The JISC Observatory project showed ebooks are mostly used for quick fact finding, whereas printed books are preferable for extended reading. This type of usage suggests an expectation of a lower price point for ebooks. It was found that there wasn’t a considerable impact on print textbooks throughout the trial.

Benefits of eTextbooks:
  • Ability for them to ease bottlenecks in libraries when print items are on loan, particularly as there is increased usage of mobile devices amongst students.
  • The interactive tools can increase student engagement and learning outcomes as well as offer the ability to break them up into chapters and for them to be added into course packs along with videos, article and audio appropriate to the subject.
  • The online environment also offers the ability to collect usage statistics and faculties can see whether students are using non-recommended texts.
  • They could address students’ use of Wikipedia/Google if developed in line with user behaviours and expectations, but with the added benefit of the information coming from companies of professionals.
  • Tablets are also beginning to emerge as alternative access devices to laptops as their prices are driven down and they better suit the ubiquitous lifestyles of students

Apple iBooks
Sara mentioned iBooks which are eTextbooks designed specifically for iPads and apple devices and feature materials from large published such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill. There is also an option to create PDF versions for other devices. Apple are looking at selling preloaded iPads to schools in the US, though there was a general feeling that this was a marketing opportunity to sell iPads it was thought others would release competing products.

Pearson Foundation Study:
The study showed tablet ownership had trebled for college students in the last 3 years with 70% of students reading digital text and 75% using tablets for daily learning. It is believed that eTextbooks will replace print within 5 years.

The Future?
Sara finished by saying it was an evolutionary process and the speed of adoption was likely to depend on the subject area. Ease of access and use would also feature heavily.
There are different business models and it is still uncertain which one will be most popular. These include individual purchase by students, material-included based fees, PDA or all library budget being absorbed by digital materials.
Sara stated we are most likely going to live in a hybrid world for the foreseeable future.

Some comments from the audience at the end of the session:
  • Librarians are keen to buy eTextbooks for their students but institutional packages set forward by the publishers are felt to be unrealistic, particularly as they are then restricted by DRM issues.
  • DRM is a big problem, particularly as students will use an ebook to scan chapters/TOC to see if they want to read the whole item and then want to print the bits they are interested in.
  • Students are still reluctant to use purely e over print and not everyone has a tablet yet. Ebooks on smart phones are not ideal
  • There is a demand for eTextbooks but they are not being delivered.
  • Whilst the individual prices of ebooks may have gone down, the institutional prices are still very high.
  • Librarians will look at smaller publishers who are willing to offer more competitive prices over the larger companies.
  • There is a want for perpetual access to books.

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