Digital content alone may not reduce textbook prices

Caroline Vanderlip, CEO of SharedBook, has an opinion piece on Inside Higher Ed stating that “going digital” is not a panacea that will automatically bring about lower prices for textbooks. Much as publishers of mass market fiction have been saying, if the costs of producing the material remain the same, the price of the textbook will stay about the same whether the distribution method is digital or electronic. And OER (open educational resources” material will not necessarily change this either, at least for a while—there just isn’t very much of it yet.

Vanderlip writes that the best way of bringing prices down is to make it easier for instructors to mix and match exactly the combination of materials they need from both free and paid content, so that they do not have to pay for additional dead-weight material not needed for their courses.

It’s an approach that sounds like it could work for textbooks, but won’t do anything for mass market fiction. Still, if it lowers the financial burden on college students, that has to be a good thing.

(Found via PersonaNonData.)

6 Comments on Digital content alone may not reduce textbook prices

  1. Obviously, she doesn’t want SharedBook to be rendered irrelevant by the coming eTextbook revolution. This is a transparent attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  2. Binko Barnes // May 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm //

    The move to digital media has brought massive price drops in every single other type of media but book publishers want to be sure that we understand up front that there will be NO DECREASE in prices. All gouging will continue in full force and that’s just how it is.

  3. Paper book publisher writes self serving, self promoting, self-aggrandising piece of worthless drivel in attempt to pull the wool over the public in as patronising way she can possibly muster.

  4. Or maybe

    [*puts on tinfoil hat*]

    there’s some creative accounting going on in the book industry? Maybe the margins in producing ebooks are much higher than they (publishers) claim? What if they could lower the cost of an ebook and STILL pay everyone involved the same amount and STILL make a profit?

    [/tinfoil hat]

    Personally, I don’t think IP producers (artists, writers, etc.) should be expected to work for free as many around here espouse. And those who then take that IP and turn it into something worth experiences (editors, directors, etc.) also should get some remuneration for their work.

  5. When people try to persuade the rest of us that it costs the same to get a paper book to the consumer as an eBook they should at least offer some semblance of evidence. I would be fascinated if someone came up with some hidden, as yet unknown and significant, cost of producing an eBook that doesn’t appear in the cost of producing a paper book.

  6. Binko Barnes // May 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm //

    Andy, nobody here is suggesting that artists and writers should work for free. That’s a straw man argument if I ever saw one.

    What people ARE suggesting is that ebooks be free to find their natural market price rather than be artificially priced by legacy print publishers who are concerned primarily with protecting print book prices and preserving their bloated organizational structure.

    Also many of us don’t buy into the argument that traditional publishers add much value at all to ebooks? Most ebooks I’ve purchased from big publishers have been riddled with typographical and formatting errors and were obviously rushed to market just to try to score some quick bucks. A couple of college kids working freelance for a couple of days could do a better job of preparing an ebook for market than the big name publishers are doing.

    Publishers are fighting tooth and nail to preserve their cushy powerbase. They don’t give a rat’s ass about authors or readers. They care about self-preservation and profits.

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