The Shift From Static College Textbooks to Customizable Content: A case study at zyBooks

Published April 4, 2021


Chelsea Gordon

Roman Lysecky

Frank Vahid

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College textbook publishing is transforming from amodel of static textbooks to a modern model of customizable textbooks. Customizationmay involve reconfiguring content, combining textbooks, authoring one’s owncontent, adding notes to content, and more. As such, publishing is moving away froma model of selling static textbooks, and toward a model of providing a library of contentfrom which instructors can build a course. This paper provides data for one digital-onlypublisher, zyBooks, on the prevalence and trends around reconfiguring textbooks,combining textbooks, instructor-authored sections, and instructor-addednotes. The data show that for over 4,000 classes in 2020, over 85% of classes reconfiguredtheir books, over 30% of classes combined two or more books with hundreds combiningthree or more, about 30% of books had instructor notes added, and about65% of zyLabs-enabled zyBooks included instructor-created labs. The trend away fromstatic textbooks and toward customizable content has substantial implicationson how content is authored, requiring more modularity of content sections to supportreconfiguration, and requiring more consistency across subjects to enable combiningcontent. The trend also has substantial implications on book marketing, pricing,renewals, and more.

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