Recently a pilot program was announced that discussed how eBooks can now track you to see if you did your homework or not. In effect, eBooks now can record what you do and how you do it while you are suffering through a long reading assignment.
Sadly the Chronicle showed that eBooks only save students $1 versus buying a new textbook, but this is only part of the equation. eBooks, unlike traditional textbooks, have zero – that’s right NO resale value for students, rendering them worthless at the end of the semester. Unfortunately for most students, buying and selling books online can save them up to 95% of their textbook costs, versus the small savings that eBooks actually offer.
Now there are benefits of eBooks, including enhanced and interactive content, but for most students and especially in light of today’s rapidly increasing costs of higher education, students need to save more than ever. The reason that publishers are really embracing eBook content is simple – they eliminate the secondary market that has cut into their profitability for years. Every time an eBook is sold, the publisher gets their piece of the sale – with traditional books, the publishers only get revenue when the book is sold – new. With eBooks, they can dramatically increase their profitability.
Since the publishers will be making more money, one would expect the costs of eBooks to drop, but once publishers have access to this new revenue source, will the costs fall? Simple economics dictates that when there is more adoption of a product, the costs come down to make it more attractive to a wider piece of the market. However, the textbook market is “broken” because the purchaser – the college student – is not the person that makes the buying decision – the profess / University. Being told what book to buy has always put the publishers in a wonderful situation – at least for them. Textbook costs have risen by 800% in recent years, demonstrating that they are all too aware of this marketplace characteristic.
Now there are reasons why textbook costs are going up. Publishers must pay for talent to write their books – do we really want our students using educational materials that are sub-par? No. Costs of transportation and materials have increased too. My point is that there are rational reasons to justify the increase in prices, but these incidental costs do not account for the massive increase in textbook prices over the past year, and students should expect this trend to continue.
As for the eBook, as the publishers promote and move students away from the textbook, the secondary market gets eliminated and soon, students – if you are not careful – may be spending $1000 per year on devices that tattle to your professor on you.
Derek Haake is the founder of CampusShift.com, a community that helps students save on textbooks by comparing prices with its textbook search engine, and also the only community that has a local and nationwide student-to-student textbook marketplace. Mr. Haake founded Campus Shift after he went back to school to pursue his MBA and JD, and after earning them devoted his full time to the company, which started in January of 2011.
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