The Bookseller – News – E-book activists appalled as Pearson raises prices by 500%

The average price of e-books at Pearson libraries is rising 500% in a move criticized as “completely unacceptable” by activists.

Late last month, ProQuest informed libraries that the publisher intended to change the prices of 5,028 titles starting Dec. 4. It is understood that price changes are circulating both in Pearson’s and external partners’ systems and will go live over the next week.

The average price of a Pearson Education UK title drops from £31.73 to £190.38. A three-user license is also added for all Pearson Education UK titles.

Yohanna Anderson, University of Gloucestershire subject librarian and founder of the #ebookSOS campaign, said The bookstore that this decision was “more bad news” for libraries and criticized the decision as “gross profiteering”.

However, Pearson claimed the new pricing will provide a “sustainable path” for the publisher to continue creating “quality content for UK students” which will also “fairly compensate” authors. He said prices for his e-books remain below average. The SOS e-book campaign compiled a list of 329 titles among publishers, with an average license price of £604.25 compared to £57.47 for a print copy.

Anderson said: “A lot of us have been planning our budgets. We are now halfway through the academic year and so, to shoot us, this seems to be the Wild West of academic e-book publishing. We just don’t know what’s coming, so how are you supposed to plan your budget? It’s completely irresponsible for publishers to behave like this and there is no explanation.”

She claimed that Pearson had previously been one of the few publishers to offer comparable prices between their e-books and their hard copies. While she understood the new prices were for three-user licenses, she said the 500% price increase was still unexplained.

“It’s completely unacceptable, it’s really, really bad,” she said. “We continue to have these conversations and we no longer get information on the origin of these prices. They seem so arbitrary. As if pulling them out of a hat. They cannot identify where these additional costs are justified. There will be no upgrades for these books.”

However, she acknowledged that “a week is more notice than we normally get”. The #ebookSOS campaign began in 2019 when Anderson costed a reading list for a new course to apply for college funding, only to find the ebooks had become more expensive when she went to buy them.

She said: ‘It’s really sad the impact this is having on our students and scholars. Times are really tough for us as we try to support students remotely and give them access to the information they need. This is truly unethical behavior. »

A Pearson spokesperson said The bookstore“Library e-book lending practices have evolved in recent years, with digital e-books largely replacing print editions. The new pricing, which remains below average, will provide Pearson with a sustainable path to continue creating great content for UK students, including creating new affordable options for students to access Pearson content through a variety of canals. The new pricing also allows us to fairly compensate our talented authors, illustrators and others for the intellectual property we create together.

In a separate business statement on Brown’s Books, Pearson further explained that over the past three years there have been “significant changes” in the library e-book market, many of which have been accelerated by Covid-19. . The publisher said: “Historically, the provision of learning materials by libraries has focused on research and monographic publications, with many students purchasing their own basic textbooks and libraries holding multiple copies of text only. However, market feedback over the past couple of years indicates that many academic libraries are now purchasing limited quantities of e-book licenses to meet overall course adoption requirements.

He stressed that the revised pricing and library access models “align with the new realities of the e-book market”, adding that basic textbook publishing requires “significant investment” and is “often expanded with teams of authors and illustrators, and regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they contain the most up-to-date information and relevant case studies that students can relate to”.

Campaigners have already contacted the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over their concerns about the e-book market. It is understood that the CMA is monitoring the situation and considering whether action is warranted.

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