I’m glad to see a featured discussion on the New York Times online that poses this important question: Why do new college textbooks cost so much?
Certainly I remember semesters in college where my textbook bill would reach $500. It wasn’t uncommon for one book to cost more than $100 (especially for the big, bulky textbooks). Not only were/are the books costly, but they’re unruly in size and weight–walking across campus with books for three classes sometimes mean lugging a backpack with 30 pounds of dead weight!
So a couple big questions come to mind: First, why are these books so expensive? And what can we do to make them more affordable? But perhaps most interesting — why haven’t we seen the kind of technological innovation in textbooks that we’ve seen in popular literature and magazines?!
Apple, Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and a host of other retailers want us to buy their expensive e-book readers. I can think of no greater application of an e-reader than textbooks! Imagine: 25 pounds worth of books in one e-reader, shared notes and underlining, and easy citations. The professor could annotate passages for students. Students could ask questions of teachers and classmates right in the margins. No more back pain. No more wasted paper. No more junked-up used books. The benefits and possibilities go on and on…
The technology exists. The demand surely exists. So what’s the holdup?