Well, here we go? Or is this just a desperation ploy? I suspect it may be the former: college education, certainly in the early years, seems to have jumped the barrier and gone pretty much fully digital. Pearson certainly hopes so, as reported in Publishers Weekly. “All future releases of Pearson’s 1,500 current U.S. textbook titles will be updated in digital versions only rather than in print”. This chimes with Pearson’s recent digital courseware moves. Apparently 62% of their higher education revenue now comes from “digital or digitally-enabled products and services”. Perhaps slightly ominous for the education purist is their claim that this’ll make their publishing program “more like apps, professional software, or the gaming industry.”

For Luddite students Pearson say they’ll be willing to rent a print book for about $60. It’s not clear how this assorts with their statement that they’ll update only their digital versions. I’d image the print version they offer to rent would be a print-on-demand edition made (one hopes) from the most recent set of files. But if so, why wouldn’t they want to sell the book rather than rent it?

Still, let’s look again in another five years. The market is no doubt big enough that Pearson can probably survive on a part of it even if their bet proves off the mark.

See also my rather dyspeptic Digital textbooks post from 2014.