Digital Course Solutions & eCommerce Shift Strategies in College Market

Press Release
Feb 14, 2017
Rockville (MD), Feb. 14, 2017 — The 2015-2016 academic year provided the most significant shift in the types of course materials that college students were acquiring—with a decided bump up in the uptake of digital. In College Course Materials Market Trends & Forecast 2016, Simba estimates that digital media accounted for 42% of course materials in 2015, up from 32% in 2014.

Students continue to retain a preference for print textbooks, which has kept the secondary market, or used-book market—whether rented or purchased—strong. Simba estimated the print media share (both new and used) of course materials was 58% in 2015.

“The digital transition in the higher education market has been long and messy,” said Kathy Mickey, senior analyst and managing editor of the Education Group at Simba Information. “And, it is likely to continue to be messy as students, faculty, bookstores and publishers adjust to the changing dynamics in the higher education market.”

The most significant dynamic is that universities and colleges are shifting focus from the freshman flunk-out course to creating pathways to help students successfully complete certificate or degree programs.

Publishers are offering digital solutions—platforms, learning environments, and particularly adaptive programs—to help institutions meet that goal.

Digital programs and online purchasing have created another dynamic in the higher education market: growth in publishers’ own ecommerce sites and a changing focus in bookstores. As examined in College Course Materials Market Trends & Forecast 2016, the leading components that are making distribution anything but business as usual include:

  • Student preference for textbook rental
  • OER inroads in traditional bookstores
  • Increased Amazon pickup locations on campuses
  • De-stocking of textbooks by college stores

Publishers have noticed that students are making purchasing decisions later, as classes are about to start. In the case of digital, students are heading to the publisher sites where they can download directly at the last minute. “McGraw Hill Education saw ecommerce sales increase 33% from 2014 to 2015,” Mickey said. “Cengage ecommerce sales increased 16%.”

Overall, Simba Information expects the higher education course materials market to move through a shift to digital over the next several years that will see digital accounting for about 80% of industry sales and new-course materials sales stabilizing by 2019.

The transition, however, puts continued pressure on overall sales growth. Simba projects the total market of new and used course materials will decline at a compound annual rate of 8.7% to hit $3.44 billion in 2019.

For more information on Simba’s new report, College Course Materials Market Trends & Forecast 2016, visit:

About Simba Information

Simba Information is widely recognized as the leading authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industry. Simba's extensive information network delivers top quality, independent perspective on the people, events and alliances shaping the media and information industry. Simba publishes newsletters and research reports that provide key decision-makers at more than 15,000 client companies. For more information, please visit

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