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Pearson calls time on print textbooks with ‘digital first’ approach

Pearson calls time on print textbooks with ‘digital first’ approach

Pearson, the multinational publishing and education company, has signalled the end is nigh for printed textbooks after embracing a ‘digital first’ approach to all future learning resources in the US.

American students wishing to stick with printed volumes will now be forced to rent rather than purchase their textbooks going forward, with updates few and far between as the publisher focuses its energies on digital alternatives.

Faced with a rapidly evolving market, described as a ‘tipping point’ by Pearson chief John Fallon, the publisher has elected to go with the flow rather than attempt to impede the transition.

Explaining this rationale to the BBC, Fallon said: “Over half our annual revenues come from digital sales, so we've decided a little bit like in other industries like newspapers or music or in broadcast that it is time to flick the switch in how we primarily make and create our products.

“There will still be [print] textbooks in use for many years to come but I think they will become a progressively smaller part of the learning experience. We learn by engaging and sharing with others, and a digital environment enables you to do that in a much more effective way.”

Up until now, Pearson has updated its print library every three years in accordance with standard industry practice but with dwindling readership, the publisher will update just 100 of its print titles next year, down from 500 in 2019.

Students are increasingly choosing digital learning tools which can accommodate more interactive learning but these are often associated with monthly subscription costs instead of a one-off purchase cost.