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Pearson aims for subscription market with ‘all-you-can-eat’ textbook plan

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Publisher Pearson has set out to bring a Netflix-style subscription model to university textbooks as it launched a new service in the US.

The ‘all-you-can-eat’ online model will allow students to access thousands of books from the UK-based publisher for around 15 dollars (£11) per month.

Textbooks have been rising in price for years, with costs remaining high even when buying digital copies.

“Today we have reached a significant milestone in our direct-to-consumer strategy with the launch of our new college app, Pearson+,” chief executive Andy Bird said.

The subscription model has lured in increasing numbers of companies in recent years as it provides regular and predictable revenue streams.

Following the success of Netflix, Mr Bird’s former employer Disney launched Disney+ in 2019.

But the model has also been adopted by software companies and others.

“This will provide learners with the accessible, flexible and affordable resources they need for success,” Mr Bird said.

“It also enables us to create direct relationships with learners and to continue to engage with them as they move into their careers.”

His company reported a 7% rise in sales to £1.6 billion in the first six months of the financial year.

In North America, a fall in US higher education courseware was more than offset by a recovery in Canada.

Meanwhile, international sales grew 8% compared to the same period last year when schools, bookshops and test centres were closed.

However, pre-tax profit fell from £35 million to just £4 million.

“Whilst there’s still much to do in the second half, with the key back to school selling season ahead of us and notwithstanding ongoing Covid-related uncertainty in some of our major markets, we are moving with pace and purpose and we remain on track to meet current market expectations,” Mr Bird said.

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