Is the textbook almost extinct?

Parsons will close the 47-year-old’s shop later this year – a difficult decision due to personal reasons and factors at the antiquarian bookshop.

“We watch these 7th graders, we see where they go, we engage, they talk to us about their subject choices, where they want to go after school. We will miss helping them with their education,” Parsons said.


“The biggest catalyst has been schools moving more to digital platforms, which has been accelerated by COVID over the past two years.”

Another major success for her business was the emergence of subscription services like Box of Books — a Netflix-style suite of school resources that gives students access to textbooks from more than one publisher for a single fee. This was compounded by the fact that textbook publishers began updating editions more frequently due to more frequent curriculum changes and the introduction of digital license codes to access the online component of the textbook.

Australian Publishing Association vice president Mark O’Neil said Australia leads the way when it comes to digital textbooks that include features like student quizzes that provide instant feedback, instructional videos and lesson plans for teachers.

“You might have something like a test generator where you can choose from a set of questions, it creates a test for you, the teacher can set that for a class with a time limit,” he said.

“Publishers are constantly told that teachers are short on time, so the easier we can make preparing for their lessons, the better.”

So does this mean that textbooks will soon become extinct? “There will always be a place for books, people like to hold things in their hands,” O’Neil said.

“I think because it’s what teachers and parents are used to, and I think sitting down and reading a book is a different experience than staring at a screen.”

Eugenie Pepper said she likes holding a physical book in her hands, but her daughter Chloe, 13, has learned digitally.

Chloe Pepper with her new textbooks before the school year.

Chloe Pepper with her new textbooks before the school year.Credit:Stefan Siewert

“I prefer to have something in my hand, I remember pulling out the pen and underlining things,” she said.

Chloe, who attends Ascham, still used a physical textbook for several subjects, but other subjects increasingly made use of online materials. “When I see them with videos and slideshows, it’s a whole different way of learning,” Pepper said.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here. Is the textbook almost extinct?

Callan Tansill

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