Could E-Textbooks be the iPad’s ‘Killer App’?

| iPad

Apple CEO Steve Jobs emphasized the iPad’s capabilities as an e-book reader when he unveiled the device in late January, but its usefulness for carrying around electronic textbooks remains debatable, according to analysts interviewed by Computerworld.

On one side is Gartner analyst Allen Weiner, who commented: “Textbooks may be the initial killer app.” Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe had a different opinion, however: “Overall, I’m unimpressed with the value proposition for textbooks on e-readers.” He said the biggest problem is that e-textbooks can’t be resold, thanks to the digital rights management currently used for them, so college students will be more inclined to stick with paper textbooks, which can bring back up to half of their purchase price when sold used.

Electronic textbooks are cheaper, though: they typically cost two-thirds to three-fourths the price of their paper cousins, according to Mr. Weiner’s colleague, Van Baker, who said those savings “would easily pay for the price of an iPad over a four-year college stint.”

Comments

dlstarr7

“Half their purchase”?  Where did he go to school??  I think I made 5 cents for each dollar I originally paid…

Lee Dronick

If the price is right for a one user e-textbook then it could replace a paper book.

I am pretty certain that textbooks are no longer printed from movable lead type. So why not take the book file and create a PDF or ePub and see how it sells.

dhp

The problem I see with e-textbooks would be the necessary highlighting and note-taking. If there is not a simple and fast way to highlight text and write notes in the virtual margins, paper will still be much more conducive to studying.

Lee Dronick

?Half their purchase??? Where did he go to school??? I think I made 5 cents for each dollar I originally paid?

Yes, you would probably get more money selling the paper at the recycling center than you would selling it back to the bookstore who then sell it at an outrageous price. However, my wife has sold some of her textbooks to students for almost half of the purchase price.

Nonsuch

These guys are thinking way too 20th-century. A true e-book can have links to streaming media, “pushed” content updates and integration with course management software, not to mention the standard bookmarking/highlighting/annotating functions you can already do on a Kindle. Plus, these guys do not seem to be taking into account that a digital textbook will earn greater revenue over the life of an edition, allowing for further cost savings.

Lee Dronick

e problem I see with e-textbooks would be the necessary highlighting and note-taking. If there is not a simple and fast way to highlight text and write notes in the virtual margins, paper will still be much more conducive to studying.

In Preview we can already add notes/annotations and underlines to a PDF document. Hopefully we could also do that using the apps on the iPad. We will know in a few weeks when the iPads start getting into the hands of users.

dhp

In Preview we can already add notes/annotations and underlines to a PDF document. Hopefully we could also do that using the apps on the iPad. We will know in a few weeks when the iPads start getting into the hands of users.

We’ll have to see. The current iPhone/touch text selection is pretty clunky and slow. What would be nice is a highlight tool that you can use with your finger like a real pen. That of course should be simple with multitouch, but will Apple do it (from the start)?

eimbier

With Blio reader, some textbook markup tools exist.  It should run on the iPhone/iPad family.
From the blioreader website:
  “Insert text, drawing, voice, image or video notes directly into your content. These are saved, and can be exported to create lists or study materials.”
Other student markup functions (Translation   Sticky Notes   Highlighting   Book Marks) are claimed to be implemented.

sxotto

When the iPad was first announced, I thought it could shake up the textbook biz. But then I read a couple weeks ago that the largest cost to publishers of textbooks is in the licensing issues, not in printing and distribution, which only accounts for about 15 percent (I think, don’t remember exactly).
So the huge cost of selling textbooks won’t be that much reduced by digitizing the content, unfortunately. And publishers won’t be able to jump in with both feet and sell their warehouses, etc. to rid themselves of overhead that e-readers eventually could render unnecessary.
So Apple is just stuck with its cool factor, selling $100 million worth of a product the world has never seen in the first weekend. Poor Apple.
(Full disclosure: I am one of the fools, whom several pundits wrote about, who ordered immediately; my wife really wanted one. Hope we’re not disappointed.)

CudaBoy

Ahhhh, that sucking vortex, the semi-last wheezing gasp of print media paradigm…. welcome to the future-again where Mac Ob poses yet another question regarding a product not necessarily new, but definitely not yet “Appled” - see MP3 players, Phones, all-in-one computers etc.
I wouldn’t make a big deal out of lawyers-I mean, licensing; that paradigm should not apply to the digital model. Look at the record biz. iTunes didn’t allow for the “old” licensing matters - mechanicals became obsolete overnight, yet sheer volume of sales in the new realm made up for a lot of the squeaking. And, btw - a lot of that ‘squeaking’ is done by people’s greed, people who didn’t necessarily have anything to do with creating the book or song but who see the end of their little money train. Waaa.
I think e-textbooks will be huge. It only makes common sense. When is the last time you saw an abacus, slide-rule or protractor in class?

WetcoastBob

The nice thing about digital documentation and textbooks is that they can be updated at any time.  Nowadays books are out of date before the ink is dry.

Here is a neat video of how the iPad can be used for textbooks.  Can’t do this with the paper version.

JAustinMT

Publishers will eventually realize that without the ability to resell used *eTextbooks* there will be more purchases of new ones and will help ensure the continued profitability of the textbook, *eTextbook* markets. As a student I would much rather purchase a $50-$100 *eTextbook* that remains mine, than to pay $150-300 for a Textbook I could resell for $10-50 or keep to fill up a bookshelf somewhere… Not to mention it would be a whole lot easier to carry books around for all classes.

Jon Henshaw

I’ve always thought that textbooks was one of the original visions for the iPad. I still think Jobs snubbed McGraw-Hill, because of Harold McGraws’s gaff. Personally, I would have loved having an iPad with all of my books on it during high school and my college years.

J. S. Allen

I don’t know that the etextbooks will prove to be a viable option for college students, at least not all of us. I think the tangibility of actual textbooks has it’s own value. Being able to write and highlight in the book, being able to skip around the book quickly and skip to the index if necessary are all things that you lose with the etextbooks. And I understand that textbooks can be expensive, and cumbersome to lug around, but there are ways around both of those. To combat the prices I always use the textbook search engine http://www.bigwords.com (which has their own iphone app now btw) And if you don’t want to lug all your books around all day, get there early and find a good parking spot and only carry the book you need for the next class. And one more thing that textbooks are the iPad isn’t - durable! I can imagine a lot of iPads getting broken if they are treated the way a normal textbook gets treated.

JAustinMT

I use e-textbooks everyday for my online schooling using MyScribe and you have all the functionality of textbooks without the paper. I can highlight, add notes, bookmark, and even shar my highlights and notes. Also there is a great index and contents pages all at a click of a button. This functionality would be great on the iPad. Not to mention studying can be a lot easier using a digital book because of the ability to search the entire text for specific topics.

Tik Tok

I’ve got a couple of kids, one in grammar school and one in high school.  Their backpacks weigh more than 30 lbs. due to textbooks they have to carry daily.  Under any circumstances, that is unhealthy, and could be remedied by ebooks as a substitute.  The discussion so far ignores this major aspect of the textbook market.  J.S. Allen’s alternative to carrying textbooks (park early) is simply nonsense around most campuses:  the parking is too far from class to just go back and forth for each book; it also has no application to non-drivers (folks on bicycles, or walkers, or who use public transit, or kids).

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