First published on www.publishersweekly.com.
Armed with a wide range of data on the higher ed market, Carl Kulo, U.S. director of Bower Market Research, BISG executive director Len Vlahos and Joe Karanganis, v-p, The American Assembly at Columbia University, outlined a high ed market in transition to digital. Vlahos offered data on a higher ed market of students ambivalent about digital texts but weary of high priced print material, while Karanganis highlighted a crisis in access to highly technical content that is giving rise to the growth of “shadow libraries,” created by a combination of faculty and students, who have allowed their access to institutional network to be used to stockpile pirated content.
Kulo offered data on both new and used textbooks in the higher ed market using only retail data that can be tied to schools (so numbers do not represent Amazon). The average price of a new print textbook is $65 and the average price of a digital textbook is $61, up form $56. The top categories in the used textbook market are nursing, math, business and engineering. The highest grossing subject matter for textbooks is math, generating $875 million in sales and the fastest growing revenue-grossers in subject categories are finance, engineering, computers and animal science. Subject areas with declining revenues are English, classics, history, art and philosophy.
About 58% of students would rather have print textbooks, Kulo reported, while about 19% pick digital content and 17% choose customized material. Kulo also said that data showed that about 40% of English students actually buy the text assigned for a class (its less in other subjects) while 72% of English students tend to buy customized course packs. Bookstore purchases are declining, app purchases are small but rising and, Kulo said, “digital content is entering the high schools so the transition to digital overall is coming, but not just yet.”