Will E-Books Mean Cheaper Textbooks?

So I’m reading an article over at CNN where ten tech luminaries (their words) are commenting on the future of reading and I stumble across this from author Jeannette Walls:

I think electronic readers and tablets are going to have a huge impact on the textbook business. Some textbooks cost more than $100. What student can pay for that? So I think for school books and research materials tablets will be absolutely wonderful. I'm ridiculously optimistic.

It’s a nice idea but will it mean cheaper textbooks are will they be more expensive in the long run?  Aside from the issues that publishers haven’t grasped we expect to pay less for electronic copies, the real cost of a $100 textbook isn’t the printed material.  There’s some in there, and some overhead for the fact that they need to make the investment in the typesetting etc on what will probably be a small print run.  Most of that cost, I suspect, is because this is a specialist subject and you won’t find the info anywhere else, and it took a lot of effort to accumulate it.

So making it electronic won’t make it much cheaper as the price premium will still be there but, if the current trend continues, you’ll no longer be able to buy a used copy for cheaper or sell it on once you’re done to re-coup some of the cost.  So most students may actually end up worse off with electronic textbooks.

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