Details via the Book Standard. Of note:

…the cheaper e-textbooks may also be a way for university bookstores to compete for student consumers—until now essentially a captive audience for campus booksellers—especially in light of a new study conducted by the Government Accountability Office. The study, released today, reveals that the average college student spends nearly $900 a year on textbooks and supplies, and that textbook prices have increased approximately 186 percent since 1986—well outpacing inflation, which has consumer prices increasing only 72 percent.

Students are turning to used books to reduce the total costs of both purchases and ownership–not the greatest news for publishers, who hate it when readers end up competing with them in the marketplace. But wait. Could there be a way for McGraw-Hill and the other companies doing the e-textbook routine to cope at least somewhat with this reality? Just recently, I spotted a very relevant blog item from Robert Webber. It noted the possibility of DRMed distribution systems providing revenue to users who spread the goodies around–“Incentivised Redistribution,” to use his term. Possiblities here?

Related: Webber’s thoughts on DRM and open source.


  1. This is just an amazing statistic to me. I just cannot spending that much on books, especially with POD being so affordable.

    When a Peace Corps teacher at a university in Albania, I remember the way students rebelled when I suggested the idea of spending $10; I can’t imagine the pent up anger students would feel about this.

    Some fields require expensive/up-to-date textbooks, but the overwhelming majority do not.

    There’s a market opportunity here. Takers anyone?

  2. The “and supplies” bit makes this figure a bit vague. What constitutes “supplies”? Whatever “supplies” means, textbooks are expensive and seem to be getting even more so. $100+ a book is not uncommon, and with a courseload of 6 subjects, each requiring one or two books, the total quickly adds up.

    Why not offer an “unlimited” plan, where a student can access all required texts for their courses, DRMed and time-limited, for an annual fee of $100?

  3. I hate buying textbooks. Half the time I can’t sell them back because they are coming out with a new one. Most of my books are over $100 each and really hurt when buying them. I am very poor and live of financial aid and it sucks. Plus the books are heavy. I usually bring 1 or 2 books in my backpack and leave the rest in the car. College students are always the ones getting screwed when it comes to tuition. My tuition doubled from when I started college two years ago.

    Yea so keeping all my books on one device would rock. It would save money and back issues. I can’t wait for it to happen.

  4. From what i am seeing books are too expensive. It is simply the publishing industry taking advantage of college students. But Just remember. It was these college kids who knew that music & movies are also too expensive to purchase. Then came the free downloads.

    Creating an E-book by scanning the pages and saving as a file for distribution is fairly simple. I have seen a few examples of it already on the internet. Its only a matter of time. Free college texts online will become mainstream.

    Its been said that publishers are working on college text books that will be available in electronic format. I remember they have been saying this since 1997, and that was a long time ago. So what happens to the printers who create the book? They will loose profit for sure. That is why college text in electronic format will never be available from publishers.

    I have worked for a printer before. The Layout of the books are done on the computer, then it is put out to a plate for the press. Its not much more work to take that computer layout and turn it into an e-book. They dont do this because, they cant make a killing off the students.

    Its just a matter of time before students take it into their own hands and start scanning their texts and start distributing them free.

    First it was the Music Industry, now the Movie industry. Next is the Publishing Industry.

    So this is a message to the publishers. Let the Revolution Begin.

    -The Well Informed.

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