Pearson launches an app for students

Today, Pearson is launching an app for students that provides tools to use with their Pearson books.

According to Pearson, the app “will fundamentally change the way students access and experience textbooks” by providing students with a suite of tools that will allow them to highlight sections of textbooks, listen to audio versions, create note cards and take exams.

The model will also represent a new source of revenue for Pearson. Students will pay what Pearson calls “budget-friendly” amounts to access the app:

  • $9.99/month for 1 Pearson eBook
  • $14.99 per month for access to 1,500 Pearson eBooks.

Mike Chudy, senior vice president of user experience at Pearson, said the app was designed to attract the product to students. The voice reading books sounds real and not “automatic” for example. Pearson commissioned the art to move to the app “that looks like the students who will use it.”

Andy Bird, Pearson’s CEO, said the company is planning an aggressive marketing campaign targeting students. While students have a long history of buying Pearson products, they generally act on a professor’s recommendation to buy a book for the class, so Pearson’s marketing has been focused on faculty.

“I think a lot of people will buy it,” he said. “We reach 10 million students a year” through Pearson’s books on higher education in the United States, he added.

He said Pearson had done extensive research on pricing and was comfortable with the prices they set.

One of Pearson’s competitors, Cengage, has an app for students that does pretty much what the new Pearson app does. It is free for students who purchase Cengage products.

More than 630,000 people downloaded the app in 2020, said Naim Khoury, senior vice president of strategy and finance for US higher education at Cengage. Cengage calculated that students registered 3.8 million notes and highlights using the app.

Khoury said it is important to remember that many students do not have computers. For low-income students, an app can make or break their educational experience.

He said Cengage was very pleased with the response she had received on her app.

“This appears to be an effort to redevelop a student sales channel for a textbook publisher,” said Roger Schoenfeld, director of the library and academic communication program at Ithaka S+R, who said it made sense for Pearson.

The question, he said, is whether students will see value.

“Would a student who takes three courses using Pearson books say this will make a difference between a C-minus and a B-plus?”

“I could see people see value,” he said. But he said demonstrating value is critical, and he’s curious about Pearson’s marketing. “You have to convince students of the value.”

Joseph Esposito, the publishing consultant, saw Pearson’s move as important.

“First of all, it’s a mobile platform,” he said, not a web-based one. Higher education publishers have generally been slow to move to mobile.

He said the biggest advantage that Pearson would gain would be competition with smaller publishers (smaller than Cengage). He said that a student who has three courses with Pearson products may want to take a fourth course, rather than in little clothes.

“This may lead to a monopoly on market share,” he said.

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