Monday, January 23, 2006

This Has Got To Be Irritating

According to the Washington Post, the cost of college textbooks tripled from 1986 to 1994.  One study indicates that 40% of students sometimes don't get all of the books.  Another study says that 60% of students forgo some of the books.  

I can't help but think that textbook publishers are going to price themselves right out of the market.  Isn't there some kind of publishing model that would allow for royalties to get to the authors, yet bypass the publishing houses?  Perhaps professors could put PDF versions of the chapters up on an iTunes-like server, and have people pay 99 cents for each chapter.  That would rely to some extent on the honor system, obviously, but if the students knew that that the professors knew who had downloaded the chapters, perhaps they would be honorable.  Or perhaps the Universities would pay the royalties directly to the authors, and collect the fees from the students.  That would be enforceable, although it would leave the students with no option but to pay the fees if they wanted credit for the class.

Maybe it wouldn't work, but it seems as though something has to be done.  Plus, doing everything with PDFs would save a lot of trees, and it sure would make it easier for a student to move out of the dorm at the end of the year.  A single flash drive, instead of innumerable boxes of books!