I would be interested in any strategies for containment of price increases that institutions have come up with. In Ohio, we are in the first year of pricing agreements with the big five for all OhioLINK members (which is in practical terms all of higher ed in Ohio). 

We negotiated for perpetual access for eTextbooks with all but one publisher, who gave five year access for inclusive access (not courseware, which is a different model and depends more on a particular section/instructor/grade for that class). If it's not perpetual access, it's a digital rental and should be priced accordingly (i.e. much lower). One publisher (not one of the big five) walked away from an agreement because they didn't feel they could agree to perpetual access.

If you are negotiating for flat pricing (as we did for some publishers), any title under that flat price must have a standard discount applied so lower cost titles in SS and Humanities don't subsidize STEM and some students don't see an increase above list price. 

We've warned the publishers that more titles moved into inclusive access annually should result in lower prices next year (unlike library resources, which usually display the opposite pricing strategies from publishers). We also are planning yearly summits for our institutions to discuss inclusive access and how it's going. We've told institutions to check carefully before moving something into IA and if it's not a good deal for the students, don't do it, and tell the publishers why. Since there are at present mostly small pilots in Ohio institutions for a variety of reasons, we're not at the point where most institutions are moving rapidly with lots of courses. I would say that some publishers recognize the marketing and communicative power that a consortium like OhioLINK has across our particular state, and acknowledge how that could both help and hurt them, and other publishers are clearly going to have to learn the hard way.

 Since we communicate across many institutions, we're planning an aggregate "report card" each year about which publishers/platforms delivered what they said they would and which did not, and we'll be tracking prices and increases against the used and rental prices nationally (we're figuring out the best way to do that at the statewide level). There are a couple of other strategies we are either in the middle of initiating (an OER adoption grant of $1.3 million statewide) or contemplating, that have to do with demonstrating that eTexts are not Ohio's only strategy and we can always choose to concentrate our efforts elseweher. There's always some potential statewide legislative action (we have a state government and legislature that are interested in the issues of textbook affordability).

It was eye opening to see how institutions struggled to get their own faculty-created aggregate data about textbook assignments from their own bookstores, which really complicates price tracking. Just getting basic aggregate data (the kind we rely on for consortial deals for library resources) has been the biggest challenge for a consortial effort.

Best, Gwen

Gwen Evans
Executive Director, OhioLINK
ph: 614-485-6608
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Per Ohio Revised Code, this communication and any attachments may constitute a public record. (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43

From: The EDUCAUSE eTexts Constituent Group Listserv [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Aimee Denoyelles [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2018 9:53 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ETEXTS] Pricing is Difficult.  Buying...not so much when goals are clear

Hi Brad,

I want to thank you for taking the time to eloquently summarizing this trend and acknowledging the positives and concerns.

Your message could not be more timely for us at UCF. We are currently exploring the various platforms and providers that would enable a discount for students, as well as investigating the bursar/student account side. Personally, I'm cautious of diving into an agreement that may ultimately disadvantage the student (for instance, if the eText goes away after the course is over).

Are other institutions having these conversations? What are some questions we need to be asking providers?

Thanks again, Brad!

-----Original Message-----
From: The EDUCAUSE eTexts Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Wheeler, Bradley C
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2018 4:32 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ETEXTS] Pricing is Difficult. Buying...not so much when goals are clear

Dear eText List Colleagues,

I've noticed a few trends lately that I'd like to call out for possible discussion on this eTexts list.  In the decade-long evolution of paper textbooks into digital options (plus adaptive tutoring systems, etc.), we are now beyond "the end of the beginning" and into the next chapter of refining the economic relationship between students, faculty, institutions, publishers, and authors.

One clear signal of this transition was at the 2018 EDUCAUSE annual meeting in Philadelphia.  For the first time, I saw that many of the major publishers on the exhibit floor had signage and were trying to drive the eText model (sometimes branded as Inclusive Access, Day 1 Access, All Students Acquire, etc.).  While there are a lot of important details to consider, and many have been discussed on this list, the core of the new bargain is this:

If each student will pay for the digital materials through bursar billing, the publishers can dramatically reduce the cost to students and while still growing both their revenue and profits over the traditional paper book model.

The precise terms of this new bargain are still being sorted out, and now is a critical time for institutions to give very careful attention to these shifting terms and pricing.  Institutions are an essential part of this bargain if our real goal is to enable the lower prices for our students among the other favorable attributes of digital.  The bargain is made possible through our unique ability to enable direct bursar billing for each registered student in a course section (of course, there are opt-out options).  Institutional Bursar billing is the enabling element that makes the new bargain work.

From an economic perspective, you could fairly argue that institutions are essentially "renting" a non-substitutable service of bursar billing in each eText course section in exchange for obtaining the best prices for required course materials on behalf of students.  Again, this service is the essential element that makes the bargain win-win for both students and content creators.

For the most part, industry trends in this new chapter are very favorable for win-win terms.  The major publishers, many with somewhat recent leadership transitions, have moved quickly over the last 18 months to embrace the new bargain for eText models.  To repeat... this is a very rational behavior to lower digital prices AND get paid by each student as it is a win in revenue/profit to the publishers and is also a lower cost to the students.  At IU and through the Unizin Consortium, we have seen a string of increasingly favorable win-win terms that are enabling our faculty to make choices that drive volume in digital.  Our numbers continue to grow in significant ways every year including over $4M in real cost avoidance to IU students this year.

YET.. not all trends are favorable, and thus my warning note to our institutional community today.  We have also seen some publishers chase only half of the new bargain.  They (understandably) seek an eText/Inclusive Access model to get paid by each student, but they are going the wrong direction in pricing.  Their offers exceed the reasonable alternatives that students can find in the used book market and through other substitutes.

While there can be great variance across disciplines, in general, in 2009 an IU internal study concluded that any eText pricing to students in excess of 35% of print list (e.g., 65% discount off of print list) would be disadvantageous to our students.  Early offers to us, and sadly, some even today in this new chapter want to assert a high price and still get bursar billing for all students in a section.   IU did not then and does not now accept those terms for participation in our eText model as such terms are not in the interest of our students.  Most are much more favorable by 2018.

Thus as we accelerate into the next chapter on the path to digital course materials, I strongly urge deep diligence at each institution that assesses all the options to reduce the cost of required course materials (including OER).  I applaud those many, many publishers who are innovating with fixed or tiered pricing at very reasonable levels as one favorable step, and to those who are sharpening the bargain to further win-win pricing and volume deals where those meet the choices of faculty.

The worst outcome for students would be for institutions to sign on to (near) compulsory purchases for required course materials at prices that are structurally unfavorable to students.  In other words, don't accept only half of the new fair bargain.  I look forward to continued innovation in product and economics by content creators, faculty, institutions, consortia, and students as this chapter unfolds.


P.S.  Some of these thoughts and more will be shared next week in a Chronicle of Higher Education Webinar on Tues, 24 April, 2p EDT.  Stacy Morrone and I will share a few insights and respond to questions in advance of the release of eText 101: A Practical Guide that is a collection of authored chapters on this topic and edited by IUPUI Dean of Libraries (Emeritus) David Lewis.

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