eBook popularity at all-time low
eBook sales at Grand Valley State University are at an all time low due to price point and unpopularity. Although eBooks allow students to download and store all of their textbooks on one lightweight device, whether it be a laptop, iPad or other digital reading device, students still prefer hard copies of their books.
“[eBooks provide] much more dynamic learning but students are still wanting hard copy books,” said Tony Glaab, textbook manager at the University Bookstore.
Glaab said price point is one reason why students are not interested in eBooks, adding that this is a trend he has seen throughout the college bookstore industry.
Publishers of eBooks increased the prices by 30 percent from the fall to winter semesters. After this price jump, the UBS store decided not to sell eBooks for the winter semester because students would not benefit from them.
“If prices stay where they are, students will not buy them,” Glaab said.
He added that one incentive of using hard copy books is that students can buy them used and sell them back when the books are not needed anymore. Students cannot, however, sell back eBooks and receive money in return because of their expiration dates on tablets.
Glaab said UBS is actually losing money on eBooks, from which the store receives 8 percent commission on sales, not including admission costs.
Brian Page, owner of Brian’s Books, agreed eBooks are not as popular as hard copy books at GVSU.
“They [eBooks] have been a colossal flop,” Page said.
Brian’s Books offers a limited number of eBooks, but there is no demand for them because, as Page said, they are often too expensive for students.
Page added that another reason why eBooks are not popular is because they are not consistently priced. Some eBooks are comparable to the price of used or rented books, while other eBooks are comparable to new books.
“I don’t think it is as good as the original products,” Page said.
Glaab said eBooks were introduced at universities about 10 years ago and were in demand for only about five years. He added that at one time, UBS sold about 40 eBooks in one school year. However, in the last two years, eBook sales have declined.
“They are gaining no traction,” Page said.
Of the students who have used eBooks, Glaab said some love the devices while others have had problems. He added that some students said they did not like the eBooks because they were not user-friendly.
“I think the rental is a better avenue than the digital version,” Page said.
Glaab said the goal of UBS is to provide affordable products for students and that eBooks might make a comeback if the cost of them benefits students financially.
“If costs makes sense again for students, we’ll put them out again,” he said.
Page added that he believes there will be more of a push for eBooks in elementary and middle schools, and if children get used to eBooks at a young age, the demand will increase over time.
“There is no doubt it will grow,” he said.