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E-Textbooking September 8, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, education, ideas.
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Years ago I said that the real push for ebooks would come because of high textbook prices.  My son liked a NM history book he had in the fourth grade.  Great book by Marc Simmons.  So I checked online and almost swallowed by tongue. $90 for a 4th grade text?  No way!  That year the school system remaindered the books and I bought a copy for $4.

But $90?  It was a wonderful book by a dedicated, exacting NM scholar.  I don’t begrudge him the royalties but I would never pay $90 (wait!  I did!  Through my school taxes!) .  The idea of text ebooks started to bubble then (this is 12 years ago) and by the time my son hit college, I knew the pricing structure was out of whack. $150 is cheap for a textbook, sometimes for a used book.  Luckily, he works part-time in a bookstore and can snare used/2nd hand books and this has helped immensely on the cost.

Seriously, why should a beginning calculus book cost $200 now when the calculus is the same as in 1940 (or before) and you can nab those books used for $5?  More relevant problems?  Getting my son thru both AP and college calculus showed me the same problems, only gussied up with “diversity” names.  Instead of John and Jane hanging the picture they want at an optimal angle it is now Kinshasha and Jugdish.  The math is the same (tho the texts are probably being sold overseas, too).

Here is a bit more graphic showing of what has happened in the textbook pricing.  Ebooks are easier to carry (who ever got to that final chapter, anyway?  Or the last half of the book, in most courses?), potentially cheaper, the prof can add annotation on the fly and all the note taking can be done in the text (highlighting, student notes) and then erased if it gets too messy looking and new notes added.   Better, some ebooks can be set on audio so can be read aloud to the student.

Cost is killer in college now.  I had thought the etextbook push would come from the lowest grades up but however it happens, fine.

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