There’s Another ‘+’ on the Market: Pearson+, the Wannabe Netflix for College Textbooks

There’s Another ‘+’ on the Market: Pearson+, the Wannabe Netflix for College Textbooks
Photo: Adam Berry, Getty Images

As if there weren’t enough services with a “+” in their name, here’s another for your list: Pearson+, the wannabe Netflix for U.S. college textbooks.

Pearson recently unveiled Pearson+, a desktop and mobile app that will offer digital textbooks from the company’s catalogue via a two-tiered subscription model. The $US9.99 ($14) per month single tier gives students access to one Pearson textbook, while the $US14.99 ($20) multi-tier provides access to more than 1,500 textbooks. In a news release, the company said Pearson+ would offer students the “most flexible and budget friendly” way to access digital textbooks and study tools. The app will be released on U.S. campuses in spring.

When you compare that offer to the prices for print textbooks on Pearson’s website at the moment — which include a laboratory manual at $US63.99 ($87) and an engineering textbook at $US181.32 ($247), among a range of other prices — that does sound like a bargain.

“Students are clear that they prefer the convenience and affordability of digital learning tools like Pearson+,” Pearson CEO Andy Bird said in the 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.”

Bird added that the company wants students to spend less time worried about buying their books and more time enjoying their college experience. In addition to digital textbooks, Pearson+ subscribers will also receive a bundle of study tools, including audio versions of books, enhanced search features, pre-made and customisable flashcards, and the ability to change the fonts and backgrounds of books, among others.

Now, while that all sounds dandy, let’s remember the key message here: Pearson+ allows single or unlimited access to Pearson’s catalogue of books. That may be very nice, but as the Financial Times points out, many students are assigned textbooks from a variety of publishers.

It could also create another problem: pressuring professors to choose textbooks that might not be the best ones for the class.

“Maybe the access agreement, or pressure from students with subscriptions, means faculty are compelled to go for a textbook which isn’t necessarily the best for the course,” Eddie Watson, associate vice president for curricular and pedagogical innovation at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, told the Times. “The risk is it precludes other options that might be more open and more affordable.”