e-Books In Education Markets
Dr. Craig D. Swenson presented his thesis, “How Professionals Learn Today: International Learning and the Irrelevance of Textbooks” at the eBooks in Education Conference on April 14, 2005, further fueling the speculation about eBooks replacing textbooks in the educational systems. Dr. Swenson is the Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs at the University of Phoenix—the nation’s largest private university with an enrollment of more than 240,000 students. It has more than 140 physical locations in 37 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and the Netherlands in addition to its Online Campus headquartered in Phoenix.
During his address, Dr. Swenson demonstrated how the University of Phoenix has replaced textbooks with digital materials and how it has fundamentally changed the way students learn. All students enrolled in the University of Phoenix can complete 100% of their educational and administrative activities online. Students can access an online collection of over 14,000 digital journals and 20 million full-text articles for their classes and research.
Other leading educators, publishers and technology vendors spoke on advances in the access and delivery of digital academic content. These presenters included executives from WebCT, Connections Academy, Virtual High School, Blackboard, OverDrive, Thomson Learning Labs, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Microsoft, Thomson/Gale and Simba Information.
The implications to educational publishers of this news are profound. Academic books command very high prices—often in excess of $100 per title. Furthermore, educational publishers revise the content frequently, in part to stay current with the subject and in part to insure that students cannot use older editions to substitute for the current one. In my April 6th blog, I opined that eBooks may put an end to the monopoly pricing of educational publishers. Dr. Swenson may have moved to the next step, bypassing educational publishers altogether. Another implication is that publishers may begin writing textbooks and supplemental textbooks directly for institutions such as University of Phoenix, thus opening up a new market for smaller publishers.
The downside for book printers is that none of these articles, research papers or books are printed by a printer. They may be downloaded and printed locally by the students, but that printing happens on a laser or inkjet printer in the dorm room. This isn’t a reason to despair, though. It simply means that printers must look for alternative, complementary products to sell. The students need formatted, easy-to-read material. They no longer need it in a printed format. This supports the case for eBooks. If printers can produce eBooks for publishers, they can still capture the typesetting and layout work required to prepare the book to become an eBook.
As more of these types of conferences happen around the country and more educators learn of the value of digital books, it becomes clear that book printers will need to be flexible in the future. Being able to meet the needs of a University of Phoenix and make a profit will motivate book printers to consider alternative products like eBooks, blogs and other media we have yet to think of.