Textbooks rarely fall under the categories of "novel" and "enjoyment."
The advent of e-books has extended to the textbook market. The "e-textbook" is Full of Win for the end consumer -- students. How financially beneficial this evolving technology is for the publishers, distributors, and institutions is yet to been seen. In the meantime, students of any age should be delighted with the availability of digital textbooks. Textbooks for a full-time collegiate typically cost more than room and board, and, depending on whether one is attending Budget College or Big Spender Uni, they can rival the cost of tuition.
Enter E-book Price Wars: Stage Left
Most of the blood shed in the E-book Price Wars (EPW) has been over works of fiction. Threaten a crime novelist with reducing the cover price of their $7.99 mass market paperback to $1.99, of which that novelist *might* see 12% of net revenue less 15% of that for agent commission, less 34% of that for Uncle Sam, and you'll be lucky if your final moments are spent dismembered in a bathtub of lye. Threaten the publisher of that novel with being dropped from a massive retail outlet unless they agree to price-fixing and nobody wins.
Not so much for authors of non-fiction textbooks.
Textbook creation, publication, and distribution is a vastly different beast from fiction. Publishers don't sell textbooks to individual consumers, they sell to institutions who then force the product on their captive audiences. Academic textbook authors are driven by different motivators than novelists. In many cases, getting published is a requirement for tenure. The focus is on reputation and prestige, which creates visibility for the author, which increases visibility for the institution, which draws students/investors who pay all their salaries. Textbook cover prices often start well over a $100. Yes, the publisher is still the joystick in the game; without their cooperation, nobody can move, much less win. However, the EPW is Full of Win for the end-consumer, the student.
Let's use Calculus of a Single Variable Edition 9 by Ron Larson and Bruce Edwards as our example.We'll use Barnes & Noble as our retailer. They operate 600+ U.S. campus bookstores, thus providing us with an accurate view of the Price-Point Advantage of E-Textbooks.
- Publisher List Price: $188.95
- Buy Hardcover Now Online: $151.16 (20% Back To School Sale)
- Rent Hardcover for 60 Days: $60
- Rent E-book for 180 Days: $83
E-textbooks might not be osmosis, but they make cramming easier.
Load that digital copy of Calculus on your laptop or iPad and *blam* you can search for keywords, highlight relevant passages, make notes in-line. Hit "print" and *poof* there's your crib sheet.
OMG, What if you need to keep those books?
For what? That huge post-graduate illusion of being instantly hired as Vice President of the Better Than You division? You will never, ever, reach for that book again. Should you luck out with the VP gig, you'll have minions for whom osmosis actually worked.
I held that pack-rat delusion of a post-graduation pop quiz by some Fortune 500 employer who would give me a huge salary and change-the-world power if I could answer the magical question whose answer lay in one of those pricey textbooks. Surprise! That never happens.
After seven years of Higher Education, I had quite the shelf-shattering collection of over priced painfully dull textbooks. A decade
I will admit to keeping one book from grad school. I never know when I'll need to debate the Hecksher-Ohlin Model in regressing Developed Nations and whether the Leontief Paradox can still be relevant in those economies...'cause I'm fun at parties like that.
Save a forest. Save your forehead.