Why buy rotten cabbage?

If you tuned in last time, you know that my lovely and gracious wife bought me a kindle for my birthday.  So far, I’m pleased to report the device has far exceeded my expectations.

Converting the .pdf files of training books for the two Microsoft certifications I’m working on to kindle files has saved me from having to lug around 1800+ pages of learning material.  This experience, alone, is enough to convince me that school systems could go to issuing textbooks to students on some sort of e-reader in the foreseeable future.  Florida has taken the lead on this by requiring all public schools to convert to e-textbooks by the 2015-2016 school year. This is a good alternative to handing out ipads or tablets.  I’d keep such things in the classroom, where they’re less likely to be damaged or lost.

Think about it.  Haven’t we been bombarded with reports from the medical field complaining about the weight of student’s book bags?  My own daughter has complained about not having sufficient time to get to her locker between classes to get her textbooks for the next couple of classes.  Personally, I think that’s a load of hooey but that may just be the suspicious parent in me talking.

Setting that aside, the cost savings to cash-strapped school systems could be enormous.  Textbook publishers, like Macmillan, can still produce the same books, just make them electronically and sell them at a lower price.  Rather than a specific number of “copies”, the school could purchase an appropriate number of licenses for a book like software.

I’ve seen a few articles suggesting that the best value for college students is still to buy used textbooks.  Again, I think this is hooey.  A digital textbook could be almost perpetual, receiving updates to correct factual errors or even  new information.  And I may be a bit insensitive here, but I personally find some of the used textbook vendors to be pretty damn annoying.  They set up they’re stands on the side of the road outside of colleges peddling their used wares like rotting cabbages.   College students flock to these stands clambering to save $5 or $10 over the used books in the college bookstore, and get the bonus of acquiring about as much bacteria as you may find in an average room at the no-tell motel.

Don’t misunderstand.  You have to get by however you can, but my advice to these roadside used book dealers is to start looking for another line of work.  I see the used textbook market drying up faster than most realize.

Some of the naysayers are probably pointing to the upfront cost of the devices themselves.

HOOEY, I say.

The Kindle starts are $114.  That’s not much more than the price of the average college textbook, I think.  Probably less, in some cases.  So that cost argument doesn’t hold any water.  How about the cost of the e-textbooks?  The publishers may claim exorbitant costs to create their textbooks and e-books.  This is the same claim other publishers make when it comes to releasing backlist content as ebooks.

And as we’ve discussed before, this is a load of crap.

To be fair, I’ll accept that there are additional challenges with textbooks over novels.  But the costs associated with them probably aren’t as extreme as they suggest.

I’ve gone off on that textbook tangent long enough.  Does anyone agree?  Disagree?  Have a different thought entirely?

That comment button is below.



About Thomas J. rock

Writer of Science Fiction

Posted on July 14, 2011, in The Daily Grind and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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