Digital textbooks: The old (new) college try

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but barely six months after it was introduced, the Kindle is starting to become the “textbook of the future”. As reported this week in The Christian Science Monitor and Inside HigherEd, a handful of university presses are starting to put some titles on the Kindle:

This fall, Princeton University Press will begin publishing Kindle-edition textbooks. It’s on a short list of printing houses that are testing the e-textbook waters. (Kindle has also snagged Yale, Oxford, and the University of California.) But Princeton is the only to attempt a Kindle-first launch, offering Robert Shiller’s new economics book “The Subprime Solution” on the Amazon electronic reader two weeks before students can buy a hard copy.

This development has met with enthusiasm from back-breaking-bag toting college students, if the following post is any indication:

Oh thank HEAVENS some of the University Presses are getting into the Kindle game! This device will radically transform the chiropractic needs of college students as soon as they can get textbooks on there … it’s coming!

A quick search of college textbook titles available in the Kindle store today turns up a mere three results, with prices ranging from $25 to $40 per title. The Inside HigherEd piece reports about a 10% savings for the Kindle versions of the books, not a substantial discount given the cost of the device. Again though, prices should come down as volume scales up, and if publishers ever venture out of their protection-of-margin comfort zone, and face the fact that the consumer will eventually run of of patience with an industry that continues to charge as much for digital bits as it does for the physical product (can you say “record labels?”) Of course, if they continue to manage their business with this 19th century foresight, there are a plethora of Web 2.0 upstarts ready to step in and serve the market. (See my post about Flatworld Knowledge on April 18)


One Response

  1. […] well organized summary of the issues surrounding the potential of textbooks on the Kindle. Also, my June 25 post on the news that a few university presses are starting to publishe Kindle editions. Possibly related […]

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