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The $10 E-textbook

17 July 2012

From Paid Content:

The traditional textbook publishing model, based on dead trees and middlemen, can force students to shell out hundreds of dollars for a stack of photocopies. Now, two law professors are showing how easy it can be for academics to offer an alternative at a fraction of the price.

Eric Goldman and Rebecca Tushnet are both trademark experts and popular bloggers. This week, they offered a new package of course work called “Advertising and Marketing Law: Cases and Material” for sale on Scribd for just $10.

. . . .

[From a professor’s blog] Compared to 99 cent or free eBooks, a $10 downloadable book may sound expensive. But, compared to the typical law school dead-trees casebook, $10 is a ridiculous bargain. Many print casebooks of comparable size cost $150 or more. … While we could easily justify a higher price than $10, we’re not exactly philanthropists.

Here’s how I see the math: a $150 casebook may have a $110 price wholesale (or less). At 10% royalties to the authors, Rebecca and I would share $11. At the $10 download price, Scribd takes $2.25 a download, leaving us author royalties of $7.75. So discounting the retail price 93% perhaps reduces our royalties by less than 30%. Let’s hear it for disintermediation! Plus, just like any demand curve, the lower price point should lead to higher sales, which may, in fact, make our approach profit-maximizing.

Link to the rest at Paid Content

Books in General, Disruptive Innovation

6 Comments to “The $10 E-textbook”

  1. $10 e-textbooks? Shoot, I’ll buy some of those without even taking the class.

    Reminds me of the textbook I bought several years ago for biology. I was supposed to get the e-book a few months later (I know, after the class is done—figure out that logic), with what I ordered, but I realized later that I was never sent it. >_>

  2. Publishers are in real trouble now. This is their bread and butter being taken away from them.

    I did like the way the article dissed scribl too 🙂

  3. The part of the math not mentioned here (haven’t read the main article) misses one important point:

    That $150 text book would be sold back to the bookstore at the end of the semester, and then resold to another student, and another — all without increasing the $11 the authors made for it.

    The $10 ebook will give the authors 7.75 for EACH student – which means that they make more money, even if only the exact same students buy it.

    But the lower price means that it is priced as a consumer product as well, and also will be attractive to professors who want to make sure students can afford to take their classes.

  4. Now, this is fascinating.

    I have to say, I thought they’d lower prices to about $25. I never thought they’d go all the way down to $10.

    However, if there is one thing that’s incredibly elite, it’s textbooks. Who writes the textbook, who buys the textbook, who sells the textbook.

    This also goes beyond the affordability issue into the realm of access. Certain forms of higher education have been unattainable because the textbooks were completely unaffordable to anyone without money or a major student loan. Imagine if all those books become suddenly available to anyone who wants them. Education is power.

    And – imagine the impact on professors who suddenly realize there may be a market for textbooks much bigger than they thought.

    Also, imagine the possibilities of group textbook writing, textbooks linked to websites, all kinds of textbook enhancements and different types of authorship.

    This is SOOOOOOO interesting. Very cool to watch this play out, it’s a real game changer.

  5. Mr. International

    I used to book my textbooks a few months in advance at the library and photograph (digitally) every page. It took 2 hours per book then a half hour in adobe to put together. Sure, it’s not fair play and people will call me on it, but when you have to pay $500 in one semester and that’s a choice between eating for several weeks and having the assigned books…well, I’m not a nice guy, but I got to eat.

  6. Mr. International

    I also want to say I respect the professors a lot here. I wish this technology and type of thinking was around when I was young. Good play!

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