Textbook publishers slow in responding to industry change

September 2, 2014

Some textbook publishers are learning the hard way that many students prefer to buy books used or, in some cases, to find pirated copies of their required readings. Data from Student Public Interest Research Groups indicate that as many as two-thirds of US PSE students opted not to buy a course textbook due to costs. The Book Industry Study Groups, meanwhile, found that 25% of US students admitted to borrowing and copying textbooks from other students, while 19% said they acquired textbooks from a pirate website. Sales of new printed textbooks have suffered as a result of rising prices and changing habits, while sales of faculty-designed, “customized” textbooks and software programs are climbing. Some publishers have shifted focus to e-books, but are finding that many students still prefer physical copies. “Our business is having to shift,” said David Levin, President of McGraw-Hill Education. “It was probably slow in shifting. And the last couple of years have seen a radical transformation.” Wall Street Journal (subscription required)