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Pearson CEO predicts demise of physical textbooks as digital service launches

·Former Correspondent
·2-min read
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Education company Pearson (PSO) is embracing a Netflix-like (NFLX) pay-as-you-go monthly subscription model with the launch of its Pearson+ app in the U.S.

For $14.99 a month, the 177- year- old company is hoping to woo the nearly 10 million U.S. college students that engage with its textbooks per year to its digital library of more than 1,500 e-book titles.

If a student only needs one book, the cost is $9.99 a month. The offering is a four-month minimum subscription, and after that, it's a month-to-month charge. 

"I think what we're trying to reflect is a change in consumer behavior generally where consumers are much more prevalent to pay for access over ownership," Pearson CEO Andy Bird told Yahoo Finance Live on Friday.

Bird previously served as chair of Disney (DIS) International and led its consumer digital business through its transformation. He described the new subscription service as a "more equitable and more accessible and more affordable way for students to balance their budgets." 

According to the CEO, "the days of having to shell out hundreds of dollars for a physical textbook are past us." 

A bold prediction to be sure, and a trail other companies have tried to blaze. Nearly a decade ago, Apple (AAPL) also made an aggressive push into digitizing textbooks, but found its ambitions stifled by book publishers themselves. 

For the Pearson+ product, the education company worked with students to include features such as the audio version of the e-texts, advanced note-taking capabilities, flashcards, and different fonts and backgrounds. 

The objective is to provide flexibility and adapt to various learning styles, and adapt to students' individual learning styles.  

"One of the interesting things also about audio that we found is that actually students not only are multitasking a lot more now, in terms of being on social media and learning or doing something else," Bird said.

"They like the ability actually to playback the audio at one-and-a-half or twice the speed because their time is so precious, they can get through an hour's worth of classwork and by listening at twice the speed in 30 minutes, and that's really important to them," he added. 

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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