Friday, January 8, 2010

Textbooks should NOT be digital

OK, I can see the prettiness that a digital textbook could supply, but let’s be realistic, folks.

1. Cost – Let’s use a $100 textbook as an example.

The price to print a textbook, from my assumption and from working in the printing industry could be about $10-20. The cost of the book might now be $80-90 that’s still going towards the writers, the picture and designers, the publisher, etc. So now you’re paying $200+ for the reader and $90 for the textbook. Your $100 textbook now costs $290. OK, so you think that maybe, 10% less per book, after ‘x’ amount of books, you’re saving money?

With digital formats, piracy is much easier. There, the price just went back up.

Textbooks are NOT affected by supply / demand like many other products. It’s a required purchase for education.

2. Inefficiency – Let’s use a 400-level, capstone class for an example.

I don’t know about the study habits of everybody, but as an undergrad, for my capstone classes in my last semester, I might have had 3-5 textbooks on my table as I was studying, to provide me with multiple perspectives and to cover as many details as possible. Now, you’re talking about buying 3 or 4 of these digital readers to do something like this. More money issues, eh?

Backtracking is another issue that comes up. It’s not easy to quickly flip through and backtrack your textbooks when in this format. Go ahead and give it a try. I used a Kindle, very good for a novel, but if I forgot something that happened on the previous page, it was annoying to go back, find it, and then go back to what I was doing. That’s my own preference.

Power and technology problems come up. So you’ve saved your notes, all nice and digitally… low battery, no power, how can you do anything? I think I’ve covered my point enough. Lately this topic has been getting me quite heated.

This is open for debate.


  1. Textbooks should probably be discussed differently at different levels: K5, middle, high, college, and graduate school. My companies (,, and operate at the K12 level so I've spent time looking at education, textbooks, and the future.

    In these areas, textbooks are an absurdly overpriced inefficient clumsy ineffective focus for curriculum.

    I'll post on one of blogs and trackback to you with why they've become such an obvious area for reform.

  2. Thank you for that comment. I'll take that into consideration :)