Pearson partners with Jisc to speed textbook transition to digital

Pearson partners with Jisc to speed textbook transition to digital

Pearson has signed a one-year partnership agreement with Jisc to speed the transition of its school textbooks to digital.

The agreement with Jisc, a UK not-for-profit specialised in digital technology for higher education, further education and research, is said to be based on "extensive engagement and feedback" from Jisc members and following six months of talks between Jisc and Pearson.

Pearson revealed yesterday (22nd September) a pilot scheme that will enable Jisc’s institution clients to gain access to Pearson’s entire range of e-textbooks. Two subscription plans will be available to Jisc clients: one allowing for "concurrent" usage, where students can consult the same e-book simultaneously, or one that offers "limited concurrent usage" that does not. Under both models, Jisc member institutions will benefit from tiered discounts and transparent pricing, according to Pearson.

Jisc is referred to by Natixis Equity Research Media as an "intermediary player" in the market and the firm noted the new deal - "small in scale for a group like Pearson" - will nonetheless give the education giant access to Jisc's client base, thereby saving on marketing costs.

Natixis Equity Research Media said further: "In Pearson’s case, the appeal of this partnership is to speed up the transition to e-books, which is perhaps bad for unit sales but leads to higher volumes among target students, for the very reason that costs are lower. The group’s ambition is obviously to improve its margins thanks to the digital segment, and also to avoid volatility in its working capital ratio (WCR) caused by excessive volumes of book returns, as was the case in Q3 2015, when some distributors over-estimated demand for school textbooks, at a time when student enrollment was in decline for the fourth year in a row (record low since 1945). As such, Pearson’s aim is most likely to avoid falling into the same twin trap as last year, which caused its share to start under-performing."

Pearson backed up the move with reference to Jisc’s "student digital experience tracker", which research found approximately three quarters of students - 78% of higher edication (HE) and 72% for further education (FE) and skills - produce work in a digital format, with 70% and 72%, respectfully, believing technology used effectively by teaching staff enhanced their learning experience.

Andy Moss, senior vice-president for Higher Education at Pearson, said: “We are delighted to announce this pilot agreement with Jisc member institutions. As a company, Pearson is committed to helping people make progress in their lives through learning, and to working with partners across the education system who share that same goal.  It’s in that spirit that we have worked collaboratively with Jisc to develop the terms of this pilot, one that we believe offers real choice, flexibility and value to Jisc’s members.” 

Caren Milloy, deputy director of Jisc Collections, said: “The announcement of this pilot agreement marks the culmination of a year of hard work and negotiation between Jisc Collections, university libraries and Pearson. During the pilot we will work collaboratively with Pearson and higher education institutions to evaluate the viability of these two models and to see if the terms of use meet student expectations. This is a critical first step towards developing an affordable offer to help institutions provide equity of access to high demand textbook content.”