We have seen many campus entrepreneurs enter the textbook market; it is a huge cost for students and bringing relief has driven many new companies. Amazon, while not a pure play in the textbook market, has brought great benefits to the market.
With the release of the Kindle 2 it becomes clear that this type of device may go to the crux of the textbook issue: new editions. The publication (and printing) of new editions of textbooks has driven costs up for students and made large profits for publishers, profs, and schools; by moving to a Kindle-like device, new editions would no longer have huge costs from print/shipping etc. So just as applications, software, and itunes update digitally, so would text books. It would of course kill the used market for books, having widespread consequences.
Moreover, instead of just buying the e-version (or Kindle version) of the book, students could rent it (or perhaps subscribe like Rhapsody) and have access during the semester or term that they need the book. Next up would be entire collections — obviously Google is dabbling in this space as is Apple through its Apps, but no ‘serious’ product has emerged to target the textbook market.
Last week, unable to get to the library in order to pick up “Lobbying for Higher Education” by Contance Cook, I read the e-book via the GMU Library website. I logged in about 12 times and read the entire book. With a Kindle and a e-library membership, perhaps I could have downloaded it for a few weeks and read it comfortable wherever I was, no need for. After two weeks the file might lock or ‘disintegrate’, forcing me to ‘renew’ it.
While it was pretty easy to read the e-book, I had to be online in order to read it. There was no download feature. This is far more limiting than a downloaded book on a personal device (be it Kindle or other device).
For campus entrepreneurs and others interested in campus economics, the question is: will the acquisition of ‘premium’ knowledge via the written word — by the purchase of and rental of physical textbooks — to go the way of music? Will this fundamentally alter the economics of college expenses?
Once more into the breach campus entrepreneurs.