Cengage’s new e-textbook subscription service seems reasonable, but the question lingers: Who needs textbooks anymore?

As reported by Inside Higher Ed (IHE) on December 5, 2018, Cengage has just introduced a Netflix-like subscription service giving students access to e-textbooks (in Cengage’s digital portfolio) for one set price, regardless of how many materials they use.

According to IHE, the new service, called Cengage Unlimited, “will give students access to more than 20,000 Cengage products across 70 disciplines and 675 course areas for $119.99 a semester. For 12 months’ access the price is $179.99, and for two years the price is $239.99. For students taking three or four courses a semester with assigned course materials from Cengage, the subscription could offer hundreds of dollars of savings a year, versus buying or renting the products individually.” [Read the full article here.]

As stated on Cengage’s site, this is “the first-of-its-kind digital subscription that gives students total and on-demand access  to all the digital learning platforms, ebooks, online homework and study tools Cengage has to offer – in one place.”

For added context, over 2,000 institutions in the United States reportedly assign Cengage materials in more than 10 courses; some 1,400 institutions assign Cengage materials in more than 20 courses; and some 600 institutions assign Cengage materials in more than 50 courses.

Given these numbers and given the steep price of educational materials, a Netflix-like subscription for course materials sounds logical. But, as Nate Hoffelder points out in The Digital Reader, it really comes down to how many textbooks students need a year.

Speaking of ‘use,’ I’m using this opportunity to put the spotlight (back) on the utility of digital textbooks in an age of interactive learning and massive amounts of (quality, reliable) educational information available freely on any given subject all over the Internet. Questions arise (in my mind, at least): Continue reading Cengage’s new e-textbook subscription service seems reasonable, but the question lingers: Who needs textbooks anymore?