Knowing how pricing models work will help students access ebooks during remote and hybrid learning

Understanding ebooks: Which model is right for your district?


Knowing how pricing models work will help students access ebooks during remote and hybrid learning

It’s been almost one year since the country shut down, and schools are still adapting to the new normal of remote and hybrid learning environments–with a newfound reliance on digital books. While ebooks and audiobooks were already a part of many classrooms before COVID-19, they’re now a staple and will likely remain one for the foreseeable future.

Schools are increasingly turning to digital books to engage students in all subjects and encourage reading. Usage has been on the rise for years, but now ebooks are more critical than ever, especially with disruptions in the physical book supply chain. With the digital shift in full swing, it’s important to understand how digital books work, including the differences between digital and print pricing and availability.

In addition to benefits such as 24/7 access, flexibility, and no risk of damage or loss – ebooks and audiobooks support K-12 learning in many ways.

Teachers can individually assign curriculum-based titles to students through 1:1 or personal devices. This means students get the books they need when they need them. Indeed, students are not limited by school building hours, which allows them to get ebooks over the weekend or for summer reading programs. Plus, digital offers the most cost-effective purchasing options based on the timeframe a title is needed and the number of students who need access.

During this shift to digital, school decision makers are now more closely examining how books are curated, purchased, and deployed. Publishers set the pricing structure for all books, both print and digital. Print titles are priced based on the assumption that one person can read the book at a time until the book becomes unusable. However, digital is more cost-effective because school districts can choose from several pricing models and work with distribution companies to customize those models for specific educational systems and learning environments. Each model is based on:
• how many students can access the title at the same time, and
• how long the title remains available in the school’s inventory for students to read.

Here’s a description and benefits of each pricing model:

One title per student, called one copy one user (OCOU), is the most traditional digital model and is based on how physical books work. Because they remain in the school’s inventory and are not susceptible to loss or damage, titles in OCOU deliver real savings over the long term. This is best for perennial selections that are always popular and titles that will be part of a multi-year curriculum adoption cycle, like the Harry Potter series, The Snowy Day, or A Long Walk to Water. For some publishers, their single digital copies must be metered (Metered Access) which sets limits for time (e.g., 24 months) and/or number of reads.

Many districts opt for the Class Set model for curriculum. This provides access to a title for an entire group of students for a pre-determined amount of time–usually 30, 60, or 90 days. Publishers such as Britannica Digital Learning, Lerner Publishing Group, Rosen Publishing, and Triangle Interactive, among others, offer this model to provide affordable access to required reading titles for each grade level. This model is economical because the school only pays for access for the time the students are engaged in a particular part of the curriculum. Titles can be assigned to specific students, held until the module begins or offered on-demand.

Most schools are familiar with building licenses or bulk subscriptions for databases. Ebooks have a similar model: Unlimited Access for an unlimited number of students. This model is convenient for summer reading or school-wide reads, is easy to administer, and can meet high-volume demand. However, compared to other models, this pricing model can be costly, and many publishers don’t offer it.

One of the most budget-friendly options is known as Cost-Per-Circulation. Rather than paying up front as with the previous models, districts pay a fee each time a student borrows the ebook or audiobook, up to a set budget cap. This flexible model lets students drive demand and conserves budget.

This school year, more than ever, schools are formulating digital buying strategies to maximize value and align with budget. Armed with the knowledge of ebook and audiobook pricing strategies and the benefits they provide, educators can move forward with confidence to achieve their educational goals.

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