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SURVEY: Should Ad-Supported Textbooks Become Standard?

College stadiums, classrooms, and cafeterias are plastered with ads by corporations, why not textbooks?

By Edward Nawotka

Should Ad-Supported Textbooks Become Standard?

  • No, the practice is abhorrent and publishers should balk at the very idea (43%, 18 Votes)
  • Yes, it makes sense as a way to keep down the price of books (31%, 13 Votes)
  • Yes/No: Publishers will offer a mixture of ad-supported, freemium and other models (17%, 7 Votes)
  • Yes, but only in “practical” fields where students are recruited, such as business, science and engineering (5%, 2 Votes)
  • Yes, but only for secondary and ancillary materials, such as study-aids (4%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 42

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Every year college students complain about the high cost of textbooks. They feel its an insult to have to spend several hundred, if not thousands of dollars, on textbooks after already writing a check for ten or twenty thousand dollars for their education (this is in the United States, of course, where the cost of year at a private university can run you $50,000, including room and board).

Increasingly, students are looking for alternatives to paying for books, whether it’s renting them or even downloading them for free from companies such as Flat World Knowledge. One solution may be to place ads inside textbooks. Bookboon, the Danish e-publisher discussed in today’s feature story, has attracted a variety of advertisers for brands that want to reach out to students, either as consumers or potential future employees. He believes the practice is valid, because as he sees it, students “are getting high quality textbooks for free because we are getting their future employers to pay for it.”

And, after all, if college stadiums, classrooms, cafeterias and all other manner of amenities are branded and/or plastered with ads by corporations, what’s the objection to allowing advertising into textbooks?

So, as tuition prices continue to skyrocket, and publishers seek alternatives to offer students relief, should the ad-supported textbooks become standard?

Take our survey above and let us know what you think of the practice in the comments.

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One Comment

  1. Posted March 7, 2012 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    Advertisements in print text books will be a difficult sell unless you’re talking about sponsorship. The problem with advertising today is that the pitch needs to form part of the target advertiser’s brand strategy and, given the poor response/recall rates to badly-designed off-the-page advertisements (combined with relatively low reach), the attraction will be low unless there is volume.

    Secondly, investing in advertising is not cheap. Either you have a dedicated in-house team with sufficient volume to more than cover their costs (and avoid staff ennui), or you outsource. The outsourcing route can be very expensive and, in my experience, can cause profound brand disconnect (the space seller will do anything to clinch the deal and thereby damage the book publisher’s brand).

    Advertising offers greater potential in the digital space where the advertiser can see how many people have clicked through etc. However, have a care: these click through rates will probably be low (not forgetting an even lower conversion rate) and generating repeat business through the same advertiser will therefore become difficult. (Remember here the old adage attributed to a variety of gurus over the years: “I know half my advertising works, I just don’t know which half”)

    Any book publisher seriously considering advertising as a way forward should speak to magazine publishers about the costs involved and the difficulty these days in generating volume revenues.

    Sponsorship to my mind offers much greater potential as the “sell in” is about brand reach/compatability rather than attempting sales via the advertising. But many sponsors will want so much more than a book cover and a few pages inside. Issues such as certifiied circulation will also become relevant.

    Tread carefully – this is not just a simple headline solution to declining revenues!

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