The world’s largest education publisher Pearson has decided to subiside print texbooks by converting their learning resources into “digital-first”. Pearson in their official statement said students will only be able to rent out physical textbooks that will be updated less frequently.
The British firm said it hoped to facilitate the use of e-textbooks, urging students to buy them as they were updated continually. Pearson Owner John Fallon said “We are now over the digital tipping point. Over half our annual revenues come from digital sales, so we’ve decided a little bit like in other industries like newspapers or music or broadcast that it is time to flick the switch in how we primarily make and create our products.”
The firm currently earns 20 percent of its revenues from US courseware, but was struggling as students opted to rent out second-hand books to save money instead of buying new ones. To deal with this issue, Fallon said Pearson would stop revising their textbooks every three years, a model that has dominated the print industry from the last four decades. This means that in the coming year, the firm will only update and revise 100 out of 1500 print titles, down from 500 in 2019.
“There will still be [print] textbooks in use for many years to come but I think they will become a progressively smaller part of the learning experience. We learn by engaging and sharing with others, and a digital environment enables you to do that in a much more effective way.”
Digital textbooks were more responsive than print textbooks and could incorporate videos and assessments, providing student feedback. However, majority of Pearson’s digital products were sold on a subscription basis, raising fear amid authors that they will have similar fate to that of musicians who have been suffering at the hands of music streaming services.