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Old 05-08-2009, 09:41 AM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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The Chronicle discusses the Kindle

The Chronicle of Higher Education, a highly-respected education website, has posted an article on the new, larger Kindle's possible future role in education, amid discussions of e-textbooks around the corner.

They compare it primarily to the other electronic device most students can use to read e-texts--a laptop--and the fact that previous efforts to offer e-texts have not caught on in the past, possibly leaving a bad taste in the mouths of students and faculty. It also suggests that e-text services may have been badly marketed, or not at all, leaving students and faculty clueless as to its very existence. And it suggests a rebranding may be what is required, to get people past the "bad old days" of older e-book efforts (not a bad idea, at that).

Perhaps most interesting (from their point of view) was this:
Quote:
Publishers are eager to go digital in hopes of eliminating the used-book market, as buyers are prohibited from reselling electronic books, argues Albert N. Greco. a professor of marketing at Fordham University's Graduate School of Business who studies the textbook industry. That market represents "a staggering amount of business that the publishers lose," he said, "so by going to digital they'll be able to regain what they lose in used books."
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:01 AM   #2
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As a former student if I were faced with the choice of purchasing a dead tree version that I could resell or an electronic version I couldn't then the electronic version had better be less than the dead tree minus the resell value. If it's not then I'd buy the dead tree version.

What will happen is that the electronic versions will be cracked and widely disseminated. The publishers will lose out on even more revenue and withdraw the electronic editions.

Pessimistic, no. Realistic, yes.
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:08 AM   #3
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TMo2, it's a good point. I agree that the cost of e-texts needs to come down significantly... supposedly, textbook publishers blame their high costs on relatively small print runs, so going digital should result in significantly lower costs. I say "should." "Supposedly." A lot of loaded words in there.

There has been talk of the possibility of absorbing textbook costs into tuition fees. This would mean the schools would essentially pay for the books, short-circuiting the present system where professors often get kick-backs for requiring certain texts... at which point the schools might take a more decisive hand in working with publishers to reduce costs. Either way, it should reduce student costs, and make e-texts more attractive to students (as opposed to paying more for printed texts).
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:10 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TallMomof2 View Post
As a former student if I were faced with the choice of purchasing a dead tree version that I could resell or an electronic version I couldn't then the electronic version had better be less than the dead tree minus the resell value. If it's not then I'd buy the dead tree version.

What will happen is that the electronic versions will be cracked and widely disseminated. The publishers will lose out on even more revenue and withdraw the electronic editions.

Pessimistic, no. Realistic, yes.
Amen. I am not going to point fingers but I know people who know people that have collection of e-medical books. When I need a reference or say a subject that I am looking into they are kindly enough to "lend a hand." I will be astonished if a medical etext is twice the price of a Danielle Steel enovel, but even at such rates college students will not pay for something that can be obtained but other methods.
Now, as a student I cannot see myself studying "properly" from an etext. Maybe it is bad habit but I need my information infront of me where i can doodle and highlight on. if mid paragraph i doze off and im more concerned on not getting my screen dirty than how boring this class is then it would never work.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:39 AM   #5
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I love the new Kindle DX, but I'm not sure whether the envisioned e-textbook application will really catch on. I agree that the biggest obstacle is the typical usage pattern. Alphapheemail, you're totally right, everyone wants to be able to highlight or mark up the book, or dog-ear a page, etc. Plus (from the article):
Quote:
"It didn't lend itself to the way students actually study," said Paul Klute, who runs the university's e-textbook project. "The students skip around, they look for key words, they look for pictures or charts or graphs. … They wanted to be able to jump to Page 29 without having to push a button 29 times."
I completely agree.

Still, the cost factor may become relevant as well. Looking at a small selection of >$50 physics textbooks on Amazon, the typical Kindle version is 25%-60% cheaper than the hardcover version. At those rates, and given the price of most science textbooks, even the Kindle DX would pay for itself in just a couple of semesters. One book was $740 in hardback and only $207 for the Kindle. Heck, the Kindle pays for itself with that book alone.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TallMomof2 View Post
As a former student if I were faced with the choice of purchasing a dead tree version that I could resell or an electronic version I couldn't then the electronic version had better be less than the dead tree minus the resell value. If it's not then I'd buy the dead tree version.

What will happen is that the electronic versions will be cracked and widely disseminated. The publishers will lose out on even more revenue and withdraw the electronic editions.

Pessimistic, no. Realistic, yes.
I agree but am more "realistic". When I was in college, I always bought used text books when I could, partly because as an engineering student, I wanted to keep many of my technical text books.

The way the Universities (and probably publishers) will get around this is to require text books that are not available in paper versions, thus requiring the e-version. As you say, the students will find ways around this. One way would be to sell the KDX each year, with text books still on them to the next class and buy a new KDX. With the text books on them, a one year old KDX would probably sell for more than the new KDX cost so both seller and buyer would comeout ahead. This advantage would increase each year for the first several years since a second year student would have bought a used KDX with text books (probably having to add a few where difference schedules existed), and he would be buying a used KDX for the upcoming year. Each student could claim that he was not selling etextbooks but used KDXs.

I'm sure a law would be passed (or at least a school regulation) to prevent this but I'm also sure it would continue even if it went black market.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:52 AM   #7
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I don't agree that the price of an ebook should the price of a new or used book minus the resale value.

reason
1. many people like myself actually keep the text book because the point is not getting a good grade...the point is learning. and keeping the book is better for long term learning.
2. the electronic version is inherently better. u can do a search. u can save portions of the text and save them for later. u have it with u everywhere. lighter. takes up less space. eternal storage.

thus, I think they could price these ebooks at slightly below the used price.

from the publisher's perspective ebooks should greatly increase profits because
1. remove used book market....lose massive amounts of money
2. no cost of printing.
3. no logistics and storage costs
4. makes piracy harder....depending on DRM effectiveness.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:55 AM   #8
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Sooner or later, open source digital textbooks will drive profits out of this business, much as Wikipedia (for all its warts) killed the encyclopedia business, digital or otherwise. The current system is corrupt, expensive and parasitic. It won't be replaced overnight, but there are moves afoot, for example here in California:

http://arstechnica.com/open-source/n...initiative.ars

In the meantime, the mere existence of cheap digital technology makes high-priced textbooks a target for illegal replication, even if they are not in digital form to begin with.

So I don't see a very bright future for traditional educational publishers.
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:15 PM   #9
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I suspect what will happen would be the e-book get cracked, and the people who like paper will print out the e-book on cheap paper, 3-hole punch it, and use a brad - Instant book! (a page tears out, print a replacement. Too much paper? Just print out a quarter of the textbooks used on that day and carry only them, printing out the next quarter textbook when needed.) Remember, students are poor. When it's a choice of I.P versus a semester's worth of beer, what do you thinks going to win....
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:59 PM   #10
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Remember, students are poor. When it's a choice of I.P versus a semester's worth of beer, what do you thinks going to win....
Well, what do you think all that printed paper is going to cost? Any student who falls into that hole will pay more in the long run than the (fair) cost of an e-book.
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:59 PM   #11
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If enough students used devices like the Kindle DX then I could envision Open Textbook inititives really taking off. This would put some price pressure on the publishers.
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Old 05-08-2009, 02:35 PM   #12
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Well, what do you think all that printed paper is going to cost? Any student who falls into that hole will pay more in the long run than the (fair) cost of an e-book.
Not necessarily. Lots of schools charge mandatory Technology Fees that include "free" printing at libraries on campus. So as long as my wifi connection to the library intranet was decent, I could print huge journal articles from online catalogs that my fees paid for, as long as I was willing to wait at the printer. That was a heck of a lot easier than digging in the stacks for the same journals, and then photo-copying, which I did in undergrad. And this was all legal as per the universities licensing.

It would probably be just as easy to do with cracked textbooks.

Bree
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:16 PM   #13
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Lots of schools charge mandatory Technology Fees that include "free" printing at libraries on campus.
(Hmm. Encouraging of wasteful printing practices. A discussion for another time!)
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Old 05-08-2009, 06:06 PM   #14
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One book was $740 in hardback and only $207 for the Kindle. Heck, the Kindle pays for itself with that book alone.
Somewhat off-topic, but I just had to check when you mentioned the price: amusingly enough this book can be found online "for free" as well.

Anyway, I hate those incremental (read bullshit) updates textbook publishers put out every year, that profs happily foist upon students. (Nor do I see what gives them the "right" to charge the prices they do.)

Last edited by zerospinboson; 05-08-2009 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 05-09-2009, 05:21 AM   #15
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Publishers want to eliminate the used books market, while keeping the full price of paper books. Evil.

Honestly, I can't imagine myself studying from ebooks. I mean, if it's a book you can read from cover to cover, fine. But if it's one you wanna skim, jump pages, search a specific piece of text, go backwards, etc... It's really not pratical.
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