E-Textbook Competition Will Be Fierce

By Jason Boog Comment

coursesmart.jpgAs Amazon.com Inc. entered the e-textbook market today at a packed press conference, they joined a number of other players jockeying for student readers. To find out more, GalleyCat interviewed Frank Lyman, EVP of marketing at CourseSmart–a company that sells more than 6,300 e-textbooks for laptop readers.

Lyman wasn’t worried about his new competitor: “I suspect that the [Amazon Kindle] switch will be slow compared with the switch to eTextbooks on the laptop. That is likely why Amazon is pursuing a pilot approach to textbook versus the major launch of their trade book business. In other words, they have a lot to learn about just what will drive college students to switch to a Kindle. In the meantime, 82 percent of students have laptops (per ECAR’s 2008 study), and it stands to reason that the market for eTextbooks will develop on laptops much more rapidly than through a dedicated device like the Kindle.”

He continued: “The lack of color in a Kindle also makes the Kindle experience likely less viable as a print substitute than the online eTextbook experience (think four color Biology illustrations) … our research with students suggests there is real value in having an eTextbook that is integrated with other learning tools available on the laptop (e.g. Google, Blackboard, Wikipedia, Microsoft Word/Excel, YouTube, etc.).”

Lyman concluded with a note about e-textbook pricing: “Publishers set the price for their products on CourseSmart. And while we have a range of pricing as it compares to print pricing, on average our prices are 51 percent of print prices including those of Amazon and other textbook dealers. This is a guaranteed savings of 50 percent for students and many prefer this option to the model of searching for used books and hoping for buy-back value at the end of the term.”