With the cost of college textbooks sky high, Amazon has introduced a digital rental platform through its Kindle service.
The Kindle Textbook Rental program says it offers big discounts up to 80% off the regular list price of physical textbooks. Through the service, you can have access to a textbook on a variety of digital devices — you’re not limited to just the Kindle — for anywhere from a month to about a year.
We are still in early innings with what’s going to happen with tablets and e-readers and how it will change the math with what school textbooks cost. For publishers, this is a big problem because they won’t be able to build in “planned obsolescence” of classroom material to bolster sales.
Several years ago, I went on the air talking about how it’s a racket when professors get paid to revise their textbooks annually and push the updated editions in course syllabi. Material may change that quickly at the graduate level, but not at the undergraduate level. Most undergrads are just trying to decide what they want to do for a career! To make underclassmen buy an updated textbook every year is ridiculous.
So the idea of e-versions of textbooks being available to read on a temporary rental basis eliminates printing costs for publishers and saves the student so much money.
E-book readers are getting so cheap that within probably the next 18 months, I think there will be offers available where you’ll probably get an e-book reader for free in return for buying a certain number of books.
The issue right now with the Tower of Babel — where you have Barnes & Noble and Amazon and the Sony readers and nobody is compatible with anybody else — is one we still have to work through. Just look at the world of PCs for a model of how it could work better.
On a laptop, nobody tells you what websites you can go to. I think it’s a step backwards with Apple and Android tablets and book readers with everybody trying to lay out what you can see on that particular device. But I know we will get our arms around this problem in time.