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From The Chronicle of Higher Education.  More in the article:

Despite the promise that digital textbooks can lead to huge cost savings for students, a new study at Daytona State College has found that many who tried e-textbooks saved only one dollar, compared with their counterparts who purchased traditional printed material.

The study, conducted over four semesters, compared four different means of textbook distribution: traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental, and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device. It found that e-textbooks still face several hurdles as universities mull the switch to a digital textbook distribution model.

Perhaps the most surprising finding was the $1-dollar difference, which one course’s students encountered during three of the four semesters. The study’s authors attributed those slim savings to “publisher pricing decisions.” Making matters worse, the students renting e-textbooks could not sell the materials back to the campus bookstore when the semester ended. (In the second course surveyed, student savings were more significant, sometimes surpassing $40 per student.)

Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.


  1. There is no good reason for eTextbooks to cost as much as they do. It is next to impossible for the facts, concepts and generalizations found in textbooks to be uniquely expressed so very little of their content is legitimately copyrightable. This content is not scarce. Combining this with the low cost of eTextbook production, we should see eTextbook pricing being a small fraction of pTextbook pricing.

    The fact that we do not see these lower prices can only be attributed to the success of publishers in creating artificial scarcity.

  2. In some cases, the etextbook does have a similar cost to that of an etextbook. This is usually down to the publisher and how much effort they have put into editing the text, and also depends on the contract they have with the author(s). But with new technologies, etextbook providers are able to offer chapter by chapter renting. Meaning, that if you know you need chapter 1 of a book in week 2, and then chapter 3 a few weeks later, there is no need to rent the entire book. You just rent the chapter for around a fiver or less, which imo, couldn’t be cheaper.
    I’ve used Kno’s etextbook platform, and I started getting headaches, Chegg was okay, but they didnt have one book that I needed, which I found later on lesser known Blikbook (, which I also like for their student question and answer forum. I asked a question, and had an answer from an academic within a few hours.

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