The Problem with Textbooks on a Kindle

By Deane Barker on May 12, 2009

The Kindle DX Costs College Students $1050.60 More Than Traditional Textbooks: Here’s an analysis of the dream of having textbooks on a Kindle.

Turns out, there’s a problem — e-books cannot be sold back like regular textbooks. This drastically inflates the actual cost of Kindle-based textbooks because you now have only one place from which to buy them: the publisher.

The National Association of College Stores conducted a study that found that students spend on average $702/year on textbooks. This equates to a total expense of $2808 on textbooks over a 4 year college experience. It is also important to note that e-books are already available and contrary to popular belief, textbooks will not be $10 – publishers and authors still want their share. E-books were generally around 70% of the price of the regular print textbooks at the college bookstore and could not be sold back.

I bet textbook publishers are drooling over this. They’d fall all over themselves for even 70% of something with no secondary market.

For perspective on textbooks (elementary and secondary, rather than college), read this article about the apparently creative and intellectual bankruptcy of the textbook writing process.

“Who writes these things?” people ask me. I have to tell them, without a hint of irony, “No one.” […] senior editors look for up-and-coming academics and influential educational consultants to sign as “authors” of the textbooks that the worker bees are already putting together back at the shop.