The Problem of Pricing: Digital Textbooks are NOT cheap!

I have written extensively 1 about the possible move to digital textbooks, and how an aggressive move to lower pricing could work to benefit the publishers and the students.

NOTE:  Please, after reading through here, share your thoughts to my question that I ask at the end of the post. I crave your inputs and your ideas on this topic of great significance to students, and parents, who buy textbooks)

Underlying my view on digital textbooks is the idea that publishing through a digital medium removes the costs of production, shipping, and other supply chain costs, and thus could significantly reduce the costs of the  texts, resulting in the possibility of a substantial reduction in price to the students.  In addition, I argue that by making the textbooks very reasonably priced students would be more likely to simply “buy new” rather than seek out ways to hack the protections and “steal” books.

Unfortunately it seems the publishers are seeking to do everything they can to dissuade students from making the shift to digital books while appearing to be progressive.

Let me explain:

I have a textbook that I use for my Introduction to Supply Chain and Production Operations course.  The text is Operations Management (10th Edition) by Jay Heizer and Barry Render.  According to Amazon, the text lists new for $198.67 but is available through Amazon for 162.98.  Amazon points out that this is a savings of 18%.  2

So what would you expect the price to be for a digital version?  $30? $50?  $75?

Try $99.35 — and this isn’t a copy you OWN!  You are essentially leasing it (subscribing to it) for 6 months!

Don’t believe me?  Visit the link, and also check the graphic below (click to see larger image.)

This is just one example of the pricing schema.

So let me ask you this:

  • Do you believe a 50% discount off the list price is enough to get you to “purchase” a digital 6 month subscription rather than purchase the text?
  • What are your thoughts on the subscription idea versus owning an actual copy of the text?
  • What would it take to move YOU to a digital textbook?