Combating the Higher-Ed Used Book Market
Barrier: Effectuating widespread professor adoption through course redesign is no small (or quick) task. These are developments that in theory should fundamentally change the way in which educators approach classroom learning. However, students are not organically migrating towards these products on their own accord. In a course redesign, a professor can take up to a few years to fully grasp the new technologies, while simultaneously recruiting co-workers to join in. This is because for many of the available solutions, the most effective implementation involves group buy-in and standardization of the teaching methods.
All of the above take significant time and tedious effort. In the meantime, students remain content with the used book market and revenue is lost. Upon observing these barriers, Packback developed an additional solution by creating a 24-hour digital textbook rental for $3-5 per day. The intent is to provide an affordable alternative to the used book option, thus decreasing the immediate student rush towards the secondary market during the first few weeks of the semester. Students are incented, by both price and convenience, to hold off purchasing a used textbook, and instead rent digitally as they encounter their first assignments. This allows adequate time to analyze each professor's teaching style and decide how often a textbook is used in a course. If the student needs the book regularly, she has the ability to convert money spent on daily rentals towards an extended semester or yearlong rental at the standard publisher-listed digital price.
In a pilot launch at Illinois State University, working most notably with McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Taylor & Francis Group, and SAGE Publications, we surveyed 681 students across 21 Packback-eligible courses to decipher the precise revenue implications of the 24-hour digital rental model. The end result was a 58% increase in revenue for our publishing partners, and a tenfold increase in student digital adoption. The reason for this boost was that 82% of our users declared that they would have otherwise bought a used textbook, and 12% declared that they would not have purchased any books if not for the 24-hour rental option. The used book market share in this sample reduced from 75% to 55% of students. Building off of these results, Packback's 24-hour digital rental service will launch nationwide in Fall 2014.