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Sep 19, 2011

Will TextBooks go the Way of Book Stores?

While running an errand at lunch, the local radio station reported a textbook protest at the downtown Auraria campus.
Textbook Rebellion Comes to Auraria Campus

Searching around the net I also found this:
UMass Students Join Textbook Rebellion

The gist of the story is this. Textbook costs are rising to $500 to $1000 per semester. Given the tough economic times, this strains already cash strapped students. So how to solve the problem? Open source text books. Free or very low cost books that can be copied and distributed to your hearts content. Just like Linux, but with books.

There doesn't seem to be many books out there yet. I found this site: opentextbook.org. They have a few math books, but that is it.

However, this could become a very serious issue for textbook publishers. Given the coming massive shift to iPad and tablet devices it would seem lower costs electronic books focused on this market could have quite an impact. And if professors start collaborating on open source books, how do you compete with free? It is still early days, but issues like this tend to snowball.

So what should the publishers do? Lower their prices. Will they? Probably not or not until it is too late. It will be interesting to watch over the next few years. This looks like an opportunity for someone to me.

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