textbooks 21345

When will textbooks be a thing of the past?

McGraw-Hill launched its first all-digital, cloud-based textbook for the K-12 market on Monday at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.

Unlike the company’s previous digital efforts for this age group, the books are intended to be used as primary texts (other McGraw-Hill digital texts have been sold as a companion of physical textbooks). This is the first time a major publisher has launched such a platform…

Grade schools and high schools have been slower to adopt digital textbooks than universities, at least partly because K-12 textbooks are traditionally provided by schools — many of which lack hardware to ensure that all of their students can access them.

But textbook makers have good reason to innovate in this area. K-12 textbook sales this April — traditionally the start of the classroom curriculum buying period — dropped more than 15% since the same time last year, according to the Association of American Publishers. Digital books might offer one way to help reverse the trend.

Polly Stansell, director of product development for McGraw-Hill, acknowledges “it’s a pretty small market if you rely on one-to-one” sales. But she cites rotating carts that some schools have set up to give students computer access at some points in the day — and a trend of allowing kids to bring their own devices to school.

McGraw-Hill’s new format, CINCH, is a cloud-based curriculum for K-12 math and 7-12 science. It makes all course materials, which include ebooks, presentations, assessments and animation clips, available from any device with a browser. Students in a class can also participate in Facebook-like conversations that stay with the text. “We’re trying to meet students and teachers where they’re at digitally,” Stansell says.

McGraw-Hill will also be launching a new payment model with CINCH: schools will be charged for each student to use the textbooks on a yearly basis. It comes out to about the cost of a workbook for each student.

Another publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has taken another tack on making digital textbooks more appealing to the K-12 market. At the same conference, it announced schools that implement its supplemental online product, SkillsTutor, will now be provided with hardware at favorable pricing as a result of a new partnership with Intel and Equus Computer.

Also at ISTE, Pearson announced that its digital K-8 program for mathematics and reading would be joining McGraw-Hill’s new CINCH texts on the cloud.