A "very scary trend" is illicit student behavior such as photocopying chapters, buying international versions of textbooks or downloading from unauthorized websites. The e-book market is still contenting with fallout from low satisfaction with the initial wave of e-textbooks, suggesting that growth in the market will come from premium, enhanced products, Paxhia said.
Students use laptops and desktops far more than dedicated devices and tablets for reading e-textbooks, though this gap is expected to narrow as more powerful tablets are introduced in the next 12-18 months, he added.
Paxhia said consumer e-book purchase behavior "screams out" that digital product development needs to be well underway.
"When you have recognizable value that the consumer can quickly see, well designed devices and platforms [and] strong, enthusiastic channel partners, it equals rapid market expansion," he said.
E- books or Apps?
Publishers are experimenting in the marketplace to identify the best ways to use enhanced ebooks and apps. In the non-fiction space, apps are a natural fit with data-heavy products, noted Random House's Liisa McCloy-Kelley during a Monday afternoon discussion. "There are a lot of things that are books these days that really would be better apps," she said.
"Apps are the transformation for non fiction," Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks said at a publishers' roundtable earlier Monday, while noting it is tough to hold price points in a world of 99 cent apps. A way to offset this, she said, is to "take [a] vertical and provide a suite of apps ... that fill [readers'] needs."
Richard Nash of Red Lemonade/Cursor said e-book enhancements are too often driven by a desire to hold price points, rather than truly enhance the product. Building in multimedia "do-dads," he said, is a "producer-driven impulse rather than reader-driven or even [author]-driven impulse."