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Old 03-26-2010, 01:14 PM   #1
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Ohio calls for more Digital Textbooks

crossposted from The Digital Reader

There is a bill before the Ohio state legislature which would require all universities in the state to make digital textbooks available. From the Columbus Dispatch:

Quote:
Saying it could save more than 50 percent on the cost of textbooks, some House Democrats want to give Ohio college students the chance to trade in their piles of expensive books for laptops or other electronic readers.

Supporters and the Ohio Board of Regents say the key to such a plan is convincing university faculty members that digital textbooks can work as well as the paper versions. Individual professors are responsible for choosing the textbooks used in their classes.

Under the bill, the regents would have two years to require publishers to electronic versions of textbooks. Publishers also would be required to provide textbook formats for students with disabilities.
continued here
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Old 03-26-2010, 01:35 PM   #2
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I'm all for lowering the price of college books, however I hope that it ends being only an option to use the eBook version. Text books are the one type of books I would still be inclined to use the printed version of, if for no other reason than ease of making notes in the margin, highlighting, etc. Yes, you can do that with some readers, but not all, and the ones that let you do that are generally more expensive. Also, everyone learns in different ways so as opposed to forcing everyone to use the eBook it would be better if it were an option then students could choose what ever format worked best for them.

It seems that the legislators got into the same thought that a lot of other people have in that the eBooks will be less expensive just by nature of the fact that they are eBooks. Without opening up that can of worms again, is there any reason that this would hold true for text books?

Lastly, will they be able to "return" the eBooks like you can with pBooks? Will they mandate that they get the same 50% back on them?
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:56 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate the great View Post
crossposted from The Digital Reader

There is a bill before the Ohio state legislature which would require all universities in the state to make digital textbooks available.
This is why legislatures should only be allowed to meet once a year for thirty days. The desire of representatives to try and micromanage the world is boundless - and costly.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:55 AM   #4
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The cost of textbooks was already obscene when I was in college, and that was some time ago. At least I still got the main textbooks in hardcover for the price I was paying. Today, the later revisions of those same books cost much more, and are only available in softcover.

If the books are going to be used in electronic format, then the students are going to need the larger-screen ereaders. I'm sure the schools will make arrangements with particular suppliers to standardize the ereader usage and to enable their students to get discounted version of the hardware, just as they currently do for computers and software.

Much as enjoy books on a tactile basis, if I could have gotten etextbooks for some of less engrossing courses, I would have been first in line. The paper savings alone make the plan worthwhile. Besides, it's a matter of making the textbooks available in electronic format. That means they can be read on laptops and netbooks; with all of the available sticky note programs, highlighting and marginal notation will just take another path.

Last edited by Xanthe; 03-27-2010 at 01:00 AM.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:31 PM   #5
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As a former textbook author myself, I have to say that it's a complete fallacy to claim that digital textbooks could halve the price of the books. The reasons textbooks are expensive are two-fold:

1. They have extremely restricted sales compared to print books. Sales of 5000 copies would be utterly pathetic for a novel; it would be good for a textbook.

2. They are very, very expensive to typeset, often containing numerous diagrams, charts, equations, etc.

The actual cost of printing the book is negligible compared to these factors. You might save a couple of quid by not printing the book, but to claim that the price could be halved is nonsensical.
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Old 03-27-2010, 02:39 PM   #6
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Harry, Harry. You're missing something important.

Let's say there's a chapter on, say, Organic Chemistry. The same chapter, or the same base with additional elements, can be use by both the Chemistry and Biology textbooks the University uses.
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Old 03-28-2010, 04:09 AM   #7
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Quote:
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Harry, Harry. You're missing something important.

Let's say there's a chapter on, say, Organic Chemistry. The same chapter, or the same base with additional elements, can be use by both the Chemistry and Biology textbooks the University uses.
I honestly don't think that's going to have a significant impact; there are not very many fields which such "sharing" could be done.
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Old 03-28-2010, 11:17 AM   #8
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I honestly don't think that's going to have a significant impact; there are not very many fields which such "sharing" could be done.
Personally Harry, I thought she was being sarcastic.

I think the more likely scenario is that having ebook textbooks allows for public domain textbooks, which some states are driving for. And this will be where the savings are at.

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Old 03-28-2010, 12:19 PM   #9
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I honestly don't think that's going to have a significant impact; there are not very many fields which such "sharing" could be done.
Sorry, have to totally disagree. There's a great deal of material which can be reused under an open framework. The fallacy of each subject being a unique snowflake is one which the UK University system supports, I know, but...
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Old 03-29-2010, 11:53 AM   #10
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One of the tragedies of college, it seems to me, is that textbooks are so expensive, students almost have to re-sell them, which means that when they get to a point in their lives when they actually need the information they were taught, they don't have a reference any more. eBooks could sell for affordable prices and, as they couldn't be resold, would be retained by the students. It's a win-win.

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Old 03-29-2010, 12:42 PM   #11
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As far as I am concerned, this bill is worthless. It completely misses the point that high textbook prices do not arise from printing, distribution costs, or even typesetting and author royalties; textbook prices are high because textbooks are inelastic goods, which allows textbook sellers to charge whatever they like (within reason; a $1500 book isn't likely to sell, but a $150 book will). If a professor makes a particular calculus textbook mandatory for the class, you can't shop around for other texts which cover the material better or are cheaper. Even the used-book market is stifled by means of completely worthless new editions which move a couple of sections around and add a few pictures, so that you have to buy the newest edition for fear that when your professor assigns problems 1-5 from page 13 you will not be able to find the assignment.

These factors don't magically go away because the books happen to be electronic rather than printed. Indeed, most likely commercial e-books could not be re-sold, obliterating the second-hand market completely. Much like in the dot-com bubble, what we have is a bunch of people putting their faith on technology to improve things without understanding the way to use it. Plus, printed copies, if at all still available for those who like them, are likely to be just as expensive as always. The situation is improved little, if at all.

I'll make a post later about what I think the best way to harness e-textbook potential is.
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Old 03-30-2010, 09:23 AM   #12
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One thing that could really help here is that when a publisher sells an eTextbook, they are selling it for one use. Used book stores really do eat into the profits of the textbook manufacturers. They can sell a $150 textbook once, but then it will spend the next two years or more bouncing around the used shops, where it will sell for $120 (and the store buys it for $50-60, if that.)

It would obviously be pretty dependent on the field, but an eTextbook edition that is used for two years would get four sales a year instead of one. Even at half the price, the publisher would (in theory) make twice as much money on each edition.

That, of course, assumes that they can prevent piracy, which would be a major issue. Unlike normal eBooks users, college students are far more tech-savy, and FAR more 'value conscious'. I knew people who would use the free copiers in the Law library to copy packets or even entire textbooks to save the money. Breaking the DRM on an eBook and sharing it across your class would take far less time, and would likely even produce a revenue stream for some very enterprising students.
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Old 03-30-2010, 11:15 PM   #13
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Imagine all the weight that is saved and room with less textbooks
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Old 03-31-2010, 02:37 AM   #14
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Imagine all the weight that is saved and room with less textbooks
This, above all else I'd love for my of my textbooks to be e-books just to get the weight off my shoulders, the space back on my shelves, and easy ability to take them anywhere. To me a discount on the books would be great but secondary.

I'm going into a field (pharmacy) where I need to keep most of my books for several years. All books I have that offer e-books are usually in addition to the printed book or like my calculus and tied to a special online program, and e-book access expires usually after 13 months from activation.

This bill means more books should be offered as e-books with a more permanent options than now, which would be a very useful in the long run.
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