Three years after Cengage launched its college textbook subscription service, Pearson decides to jump on the subscription bandwagon. They recently launched their own tiered textbook subscription service, an app called Pearson+, which starts at $9.99 a month. The Pearson+ subscription service includes access to more than 1,500 digital eTexts and study tools like notes, flashcards and audio. Available for iOS and Android, the Pearson+ app is an easy way for subscribers to take their textbooks on the go, using their laptops, tablets or mobile phones.
Pearson offers two plans for Pearson+. The single plan is $9.99 a month with a four-month minimum ($39.96 for four months). This subscription option gives subscribers access to one eText title on up to three authorized devices. The multi plan is $14.99 a month with a four-month minimum ($59.96 for four months). This plan gives subscribers access to more than 1,500 digital eTexts and study tools on up to three devices. It also includes discounts on tutoring services.
“Students are clear that they prefer the convenience and affordability of digital learning tools like Pearson+,” said Andy Bird, Pearson CEO, in a July 30 news release. “With Pearson+, we are reimagining the learning experience for students and building direct relationships with them, which will allow us to continue to enhance the product with features they need and want. We want students to spend less time worrying about purchasing their books and more time enjoying their college experience.”
As with every subscription, there are limitations:
- A browser counts as a device, so if you use a browser to access Pearson+ on a tablet, and also use the Pearson+ app on the tablet, that counts as two devices.
- With the Multi Pearson+ plan, subscribers can download up to five titles, and they can access as many textbook titles on their browser as they want.
- The plans each include a four-month minimum, but the automatic renewal after the first four months is for one month at a time.
Mike Tschudy, senior vice president of user experience for Pearson, said they designed Pearson+ to make it appealing to students, reports Inside Higher Ed. The voice reading of the eTexts sounds like a real person, not a robot, and the app includes commissioned art to look like the students who’ll be using the digital textbooks. Students also receive 24/7 live student support.
Pearson reports that about 10 million students use the publisher’s higher education products with 70% of company revenue coming from digital products. The company says that they’ll reap additional sales lost to the used textbook market and help the business model of college textbooks evolve into the digital age.
“Pearson+ will drive a direct relationship with student consumers. As the company learns more about their needs and preference, Pearson+ will become Pearson’s flagship higher education product with additional features and content planned for future release,” says Pearson.
In December 2017, textbook publisher Cengage announced it would launch a college textbook subscription in August 2018. The subscription service has evolved since then, and they have changed their plans and pricing. Cengage now has two plans: an eTextbook subscription ($69.99 for four months) and eTextbooks + Online Homework Platforms ($119.99 for four months). Though pricing is similar, Cengage’s subscription plans are not an apples-to-apples comparison to Pearson. Both include full access to the company’s entire online library which includes more than 22,000 products including eTextbooks, online homework platforms, study guides and career support.
In April, Cengage was named a 2021 “Trendsetter of the Year” by EdTech Digest for helping students save money for their college course materials and for expanding its offerings and support to students, educators and job seekers during the pandemic. Cengage Unlimited has saved close to 3 million students more than $270 million in textbooks and course materials since 2018.
Pearson is a few years behind Cengage, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another publisher in the digital textbook marketplace. To compete successfully, however, Pearson will need to differentiate its textbook subscription service by offering similar pricing for price sensitive students, technical support to students, a wide range of college course materials, and improved or different features and functionality than its competitors. Pearson may not be able to offer all the bells and whistles right out of the gate, but they will be able to evolve quickly, based on subscriber feedback.