I was somewhat annoyed but certainly not shocked when my high-school-entering daughter’s textbooks and other required reading material ended up costing us several hundred dollars. And this was purchasing many of the books used. It’s well known that publishers, losing customers in other aspects of their business, are using their textbook publishing divisions to make some extra cash.
At one point it was assumed that e-books would completely take over the textbook market and would help drive down costs. So far that hasn’t happened much. The primary e-book customers seem to be folks who want to carry all their books around in a more convenient format. The e-books themselves often are priced similarly to the printed version.
There has been some innovation in the area though. For example. Amazon today announced Kindle Textbook Rental. The rental price paid increases the longer you keep the book.
The new Amazon service would be ideal for situations where there is a long reading list for a class. The student would then only need to rent books for the semesters where those books are being used. It doesn’t look like much would be saved for traditional full-year textbooks. A quick glance at some of the pricing indicates that renting the book for the school year costs roughly the same as buying the e-book.
Believe it or not, as I was looking in to the rental pricing I noticed that in some cases the new hardback versions of textbooks are actually priced lower than e-books. Of course, used hardback copies always cheaper than e-books. And with the Kindle books, there’s no option to sell the book at the end of the year.
So despite the new possibility of lowering e-book costs by renting, it seems that in many cases the lowest cost is. as it’s always been, the used-book market.