Academic Challenges

Alan Staton of the BA on the forthcoming Academic Conference

Alan Staton of the BA on the forthcoming Academic Conference

A recently-published report from the Book Industry Study Group shows a continued lack of interest among students for e-textbooks. This study was completed and released in the US but it is consistent with the views expressed by the Student Panels that have become a feature of the BA APS Conference in recent years.

There will be another Student Panel – as well as, for the first time – a Lecturer Panel at the forthcoming APS Conference in Brighton on March 13th and 14th. It will be interesting to see if attitudes are changing. What’s emerged clearly from students at recent conferences is that they much prefer physical textbooks to e-textbooks or other digital content. However what has also emerged is that they prefer to get their content for free rather than pay for it; and pretty much all content can be got free online one way or another. And deeper reading of Book Industry Study Group report reveals a worrying picture. Students are increasing migrating away from print textbooks, but aren’t migrating to etextbooks in concomitant numbers, although there is evidence that ILS (interactive learning systems) are increasing and partially accounting for some of the ‘loss’. A deeper understanding of the changing behaviours of students and their institutions is vital to the industry, and is something that the conference will be looking at it.

The Student Experience has been the buzz-expression around campuses for many years, and isn’t about to go away. The 1994 Group of universities even has a Student Experience Policy Group and it is high on the agenda of every tertiary institution. They all devote, time, energy and resource to it.

In my happy, heady days of fee-free, grant-supported university life, the student experience didn’t amount to much more than the price of beer in the Students Union, the quality of gigs in the Lower Common Room and which lecturers to give a wide-berth to. The process that began with the introduction of loans and now means undergraduates paying up to £9,000 a year in course fees has turned all students into consumers. And student’s paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees increasingly, and perhaps not unreasonably, expect the course content to be included in that fee.

But what is the best way of delivering that content? Booksellers, of course, say the book is best and one of the sessions at the APS Conference traces a correlation between student success and book borrowing and purchasing.

It promises to be a fascinating two days of debate and discussion. I’m particularly looking forward to the Lecturer Panel. At recent conferences they have been the elephant not in the room. The Awards are special too; with the best in academic bookselling and publishing being recognised and rewarded before an audience of their peers.

Global Administrator | 19/02/2013 12:33:43
Filed under: APS Conference