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

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.”