Executives from across the education sector of book publishing gathered Wednesday, Feb. 9 at The Yale Club in New York City for Book Industry Study Group's (BISG) first "Making Information Pay for Higher Education" event. A range of speakers addressed challenges familiar to many publishers, including determining what consumers want in a print-digital integrated world and how to deliver it to them, as well as issues specific to the education sector, such as the ongoing debate over textbook pricing.
After a welcome from BISG Executive Director Scott Lubeck, Steve Paxhia, president of Beacon Hill Strategic Solutions, took to the podium to discuss BISG's inaugural study, "Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education." When the study results initially were released in early January, one particular statistic made news headlines internationally: Nearly 75 percent of students who responded to the study said they prefer printed texts, "citing a fondness for print's look and feel, as well as its permanence and ability to be resold," according to BISG.
However, Paxhia cautioned, there may be more to that statistic than meets the eye, noting that current e-textbook offerings have not achieved a high level of satisfaction among students. "Price and availability are key factors," said Paxhia, indicating that students expect digital products to be better priced.
Additionally, explained speakers Mark Nelson, vice president of National Association of College Stores (NACS) Media Solutions, and Julie Traylor, chief of planning and research, NACS, some students can't find or access e-textbooks, and some are concerned that they won't do as well in a class if they use a format different from the instructor. (Instructors, Paxhia had noted earlier in the program, generally won't adopt a format, such as a digital format, unless every student has access to it.) According to a NACS study, 50 percent of surveyed students didn't know if e-textbooks were available to them, yet 50 percent were open to the option.