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Publishers, educational institutions and their government observers love the idea of e-textbooks: cheaper, better and easier on the back when the alternative is carrying a backpack full of dead trees imprinted with information that quickly goes out of date.
Problem is students don’t love them. The proof is in the data. About 6% of students used the core e-textbook as their main course material in the fall 2012 semester, according to new data from the Book Industry Study Group, presented at the Making Information Pay for Higher Education conference produced by BISG. That’s the same percentage of students who were using e-textbooks the previous year.
The problem isn’t adoption of technology: Double the number of students have tablet computers (about a third). Less than 5% of them use the devices as their primary study device.
One insight from the new data is that students especially don’t respond well to e-textbooks that are simply digitized versions of the print editions. Herein lies the lesson for trade publishers, especially of illustrated digital titles: A straight digital reproduction of the print edition may not impress readers. Publishers should take advantage of the new medium to give readers something special, different and specific to the platform.
Read more about what’s happening in the e-textbook market here.