The publishing industry is facing a number of challenges in this highly technical society. Reports of decline in sales of textbooks have become regular news for most university presses. And the issues surrounding the decline just make the situation get a little darker.
The proliferation of web sites that offer pirated versions of textbooks has been pointed out as one of the main culprits of the decrease in textbook sales. Contrary to what many believed, that the books published in university presses were too specialized to even attract attention from pirates, electronic files of university-press books have already been spotted on those pirate websites.
The overpricing of textbooks might be the reason why pirate sites even exist. It can be noted that several lawsuits have already been filed over overpriced textbooks. The expense and the fact that a ‘free’ alternative is available might encourage one helpless student who cannot find cheap textbooks for his highly demanding subjects to turn to these pirate sites for refuge.
There is also the issue of electronic reserves and the use of course management software such as Blackboard. In instances where professors make chapters of a book available as electronic reserves or disseminate the materials through Blackboard, buying a textbook may not be necessary anymore. Furthermore, professors may get out of having to pay a permission fee to the publisher.
The situation calls for university presses to start making it easy for people to ask for permissions. Aside from this, open textbooks already exist to assist students in their scholarly concerns. These methods will hopefully eliminate the problem of piracy while helping students get the best learning experience possible without the additional costs.
However, the decline of textbooks sales will continue to be the challenge faced by university presses at present, considering the online alternatives. Not a good sign for the traditional textbooks industry indeed, but this is something that they need to deal with.
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