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Disruption finally arriving to the textbook market!

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With their massive student debt loads, millennials are no fans of high textbook prices. I agree that this market seems irrational. Of course, this is the outcome when one person (professors) picks the product and another person (students) pays the cost. The list price for the required text book in my Investments class is $282.95. Nuts.

The good news is that disruption is coming hard and fast for publishers. Witness Pearson’s stock which plunged 29.3% yesterday, and it is down 62% since March 2015.

Pearson PLC is based in London but its most profitable division sells textbooks in the the U.S. higher education market. Management had an earnings call yesterday, and their revenue in this market dropped 30% in the 4th quarter. Here is the best line from management: “We also know, as a result of some of our student survey work, that many students would take up a stand-alone eText option if it were priced competitively versus a second-hand print textbook. So that’s what we’re going to do. We are cutting prices on 2,000 digital eBook products right across our portfolio by between 20% and 50%.” (emphasis added)

This is from slide 12 of their investor presentation.

Source: Pearson plc Q4 2016 Sales- Trading Statement Call Jan 18 2017. Note: I added the notation.

Textbook prices are a problem. Change may not be occurring as fast as we would like but it will arrive eventually.