20th August, 2013



Continued growth in availability and adoption of e-textbooks was recorded by the recent survey of the Irish Educational Publishers’ Association (IEPA) which saw publications sales figures rise from less than 100 e-textbooks in 2010 to almost 40,000 in use in 2012.

Representing a small element of overall sales at about 1 %, the IEPA expect that usage of e-textbooks will continue to increase. While e-textbooks are about 30% cheaper than their printed equivalents, reflecting savings on print and distribution costs, most of this saving is offset by the 23% VAT which is not payable on printed books.

No price increase

The 2012 survey analysis also reveals that despite a significant global hike in paper costs there have been no increases in school book prices since 2009, in some cases since 2008. The number of titles has also increase from 2,193 in 2010 to 2,336 in 2012.

Pupil numbers increase but market drops

However, total revenues from educational publications have decreased from €54m in 2010 to €51m in 2012. This fall in revenues is attributed to an increase in school book rental schemes which IEPA member firms support by offering discounts of 10%-15% to schools buying in bulk.

“This indicates that expenditure per pupil on textbooks has significantly decreased”, according to IEPA General Secretary, Cliodhna O’Donoghue, “despite an increase in pupil numbers.” Department of Education and Skills statistics indicate a 3.3% increase in the number of primary students and a 3.5% rise in secondary school students over the last two years.*

The recent Barnardos Back to School Costs survey also found that school book prices remained stable. It also reported that an increasing trend towards school book rental schemes.

Revisions...the reality

In addition, just 42 books from more than 2,336 were revised during 2012 with more than 50% of these revisions due to curriculum change. This represents just 1.8% of all publications, contrary to some public misconceptions. It is also a reduction on figures for 2010 when some 50 titles (2.3%) from a total of 2,193 units were revised.


The survey also revealed that despite the closure of two large Irish book printers over the last few years, two thirds of printing, or 66%, has remained in Ireland

The IEPA survey was undertaken in late June 2013. Consolidation and analysis of the market data was undertaken by BDO Chartered Accountants and included figures from the following members of IEPA:

An Gúm, Celtic Press, CJ Fallon, Educate.ie, Educational Company of Ireland, Folens, Forum Publications, Gill & Macmillan, Mentor Books and Veritas.

These ten Irish publishers produce over 90% of the educational content specifically tailored for the Irish primary and post-primary schools curriculum and authored by experienced Irish teachers.

Editor’s note:

·         Primary and post-primary enrolments are projected to rise by another 50,000 pupils by 2015. Primary enrolments are projected to rise by over another 37,000 pupils by 2015, and continue to rise to a peak of around 596,000 in 2019. Post-primary enrolments are expected to rise by almost 16,000 by 2015 and continue rising until at least 2026 to a level of around 416,000 pupils before reducing. This DES document covers all years for students in first- and second- level institutions aided by the Department of Education and Skills only and is following on from the assumptions adopted in the CSO projections, three migration assumptions and two fertility assumptions.

·       The IEPA continues to lobby for a reduction or abolition of 23% VAT on educational e-textbooks. It has been in contact with the Department of Education and Skills as well as the Department of Finance and is also seeking a standardised platform for educational technology in order to improve efficiency and further reduce costs.