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Education powerhouse Pearson moves away from print and adopts 'digital first' strategy

Key Points
  • All new releases of Pearson's active U.S. titles will be "digital first". 
  • Going forward, students who are still keen to use a physical textbook will have the option of renting one. 
Jeff Pachoud | AFP | Getty Images

Pearson, the world's biggest education publisher, has announced that all new releases of its 1,500 active U.S. titles will be "digital first."

In a statement Tuesday, the company said that the titles would now be updated on a continuous basis "driven by developments in the field of study, new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and Pearson's own efficacy research."

Pearson added that, currently, college students accessed more than 10 million digital courses and e-books from the company. Under the new strategy the average cost of an e-book will be $40, while a "full suite of digital learning tools" will come in at $79. Students who are still keen to use a physical textbook will have the option of renting one for an average price of $60.

The CEO of Pearson, John Fallon, said that the company had changed its business model "to deliver affordable, convenient and personalized digital materials to students." Fallon added that Pearson's "digital first model" would lower prices for students and, over time, increase the firm's revenues.

"By providing better value to students, they have less reason to turn to the secondary market," he said. "This will create a more predictable, visible revenue stream with a better quality of earnings that enables us to serve the needs of learners and customers more effectively."

Technology is driving change across the education sector, with computers and tablets now a common site in classrooms. The last few years have also seen the development of digital based learning platforms including massive open online courses, or MOOCS.

Providers such as edX — which was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 — offer free online courses from renowned institutions such as Columbia University and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The platform provides more than 2,400 courses and its users come from all over the world.

In an interview broadcast in May 2018, Albert Hitchcock, chief technology and operations officer for Pearson, emphasized the importance of digital.

"The digital medium gives us the opportunity to really take the educational learning experience to the next level," he told CNBC.

"The technology, ultimately, will allow us to truly personalize the education experience in a way that both improves learning outcomes (and) shortens the learning time," he added. Hitchcock went on to say that technology would give Pearson the ability to deliver learning at any time and in any place around the world.