The Problem of Pricing: Digital Textbooks are NOT cheap!

I have written extensively [1.  See: Digital Book Readers (Kindle?) in Academia (an outline of thoughts), Digital Textbooks: Fairness in Pricing after DRM is Hacked, or Digital Textbooks and “Fair Pricing”, and Digital Education Resources: What price, adoption?] 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. And for those that are tracking these things, it’s the newest edition-I will have to switch at some point.]

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?

3 thoughts on “The Problem of Pricing: Digital Textbooks are NOT cheap!

  1. 1. NO!
    2. If the subscription was permanent and included updates – it might be worth it. The subscription has no resale value also – so is it really a 50% off savings? There have been times when I got a book used and sold it for more than I bought it for thus I got PAID to use the book. That won’t happen with a subscription!
    3. It would take the commitment of the publisher to go digital only.

    I had a PDF for a class a while back… and I hated it! The DRM only allowed me to use is on a certain computer and the printing was limited. When I bought it I thought it would be great to just have the text on my thumbdrive – it didn’t work that way though! I had to jump through hoops with the publisher to change my purchase to the web edition…

  2. 50% discount is not enough for me to go digital, although I would definitly be interested in digital books for a cost of around $30 and a subscription would be fine. Many years ago (and I’m not telling how many) I use to think that I would reference my textbooks so I kept most of them. This never happened so I ended up with a lot of outdated books that cost a lot of money of which I have stored someone in the attic, barn or who knows where. I am even less inclined to keep textbooks now. Information is changing so fast and textbooks are outdated before they are barely used, plus you can access up-to-date information on most anything on the world-wide Web. My main concern with a digital book would be portability since I don’t have a notebook computer. I might have to invest in an iPad or some other e-book reader device.

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