College textbooks coming — slowly — to Kindle

Princeton University Press will be selling textbooks in Kindle editions, reports the Christian Science Monitor. That’s potentially good news for students: it’ll make carrying around a whole bunch of textbooks something besides a spine-compressing metaphor for their college loans. Not to mention how much less expensive those college textbooks will be when there are no printing costs involved, right?

Right?

This fall, Princeton University Press will begin publishing Kindle-edition textbooks. It’s on a short list of printing houses that are testing the e-textbook waters. (Kindle has also snagged Yale, Oxford, and the University of California.) But Princeton is the only to attempt a Kindle-first launch, offering Robert Shiller’s new economics book “The Subprime Solution” on the Amazon electronic reader two weeks before students can buy a hard copy.

Digital college textbooks [Features.CSMonitor.com] (Thanks, Nathan!)

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11 Responses to College textbooks coming — slowly — to Kindle

  1. Boomzilla says:

    Monopole, re: “Oh great, DRMed to the hilt textbooks on a single proprietary platform. Just wait till the DRM server goes down during finals.”

    — Once books have been downloaded to the Kindle there is no further DRM checks – so “the DRM server going down during finals” won’t impact anyone.

    Re: “And while textbooks are exorbitant, they are something you usually want to keep if they are in your field. I still reference my textbooks to this day. What’s the likelihood of that with the kindle and DRM.”

    — There is no expiration on Kindle book licenses. If you drop/break your Kindle books can be re-downloaded from the Amazon “Your Media Library”

    Re: “Couple that with Amazon’s monopoly aims, and you have a miserable situation.”

    – And what monopoly aims are these? Please cite a reference. Amazon customer support is amazingly good. Why are you so bent out of shape about Kindle? Don’t like it? You can still buy hardcopy books from Amazon.com and other sellers and shelp them all over the planet…

  2. ps says:

    academia is the largest and most potentially profitable arena for electronic text readers and electronic texts. yet so few textbooks are available in digital form, and further the readers that exist wouldn’t really live up to the job.

    lets get a solid open reader that can interface with softwares like Mekentosj’s Papers, Thompson Endnote, and a digital distributor who is hooked up with all the publishers whom provide all those technical, scientific, historical, mathematics, and sociology textbooks as well as all the compiled literature books used in colleges. This would make for one hell of a business model especially if you started specializing to each universities classes.

    it might give all those private and university bookstores a run for their money, but those guys have been ripping off students as long as they have been around. I routinely received %10 the cost of a textbook, when I sold books back to the bookstore, only to have them resell the book at the same price I originally paid.

    If this model wouldn’t work because of publishers, not necessarily misplaced, fears of piracy, digital texts could still be provided as mentioned above through the university, rolled into tution.

    Not only would this make university library book collections more complete and accessible, it would further the digital distribution channel available to university libraries and it would relieve a lot of the burden placed on students in purchasing and accessing texts.

  3. LSK says:

    Just publish the textbooks in an open format! Information wants to be free!

  4. zuzu says:

    That’s potentially good news for students: it’ll make carrying around a whole bunch of textbooks something besides a spine-compressing metaphor for their college loans. Not to mention how much less expensive those college textbooks will be when there are no printing costs involved, right?

    Most universities have an “electronic reserve” where the school libraries use book scanners to make PDF selections of textbooks and other reference books for students. Ability to download the PDFs is usually inside the university’s “portal” / intranet, and either this is legally permitted freely under Fair Use, or universities pay for copyright licensing somehow.

    What I’ve failed to grasp is why most universities don’t just OCR all the required texts in this manner, and incorporate the textbook fees (for copyright license) into student tuition (which would also help where student loans/grants pay for tuition but not materials).

    How is it that in the 21st Century — where many universities have student laptop* programs — students are still shlepping around pulped dead-trees around?

    (*Perhaps soon nearly all colleges will rest on the Asus EeePC or HP MiniNote for student laptops, even in low-cost community colleges. On the whole IBM/Lenovo seems to have a lock on this segment with their ThinkPad model currently though.)

  5. catbeller says:

    Scanning in a textbook carries a fine of a zillion (it’s a lot, don’t remember) dollars, and up to five years in prison

    for each book.

    The textbook companies bought themselves some GOOD laws a few years ago. For them. You’d get off with fewer years in jail if you were to commit manslaughter.

    Hmm. A lot of us have thousands of ebooks collected over the years, some of them textbooks. How many millions of years of prison time do Americans owe the book companies? Is there a walking active human with a computer who isn’t a felon hundreds of times over?

  6. monopole says:

    Oh great, DRMed to the hilt textbooks on a single proprietary platform. Just wait till the DRM server goes down during finals.

    And while textbooks are exorbitant, they are something you usually want to keep if they are in your field. I still reference my textbooks to this day. What’s the likelihood of that with the kindle and DRM. If I remember correctly, several DRMed medical text self destruct on graduation. Expect subscription models as well. Resale? forgeddaboutit!

    Couple that with Amazon’s monopoly aims, and you have a miserable situation.

  7. ProKindle says:

    As a recent undergraduate and current graduate student, this is outstanding! I have been waiting for the digital textbook, whether downloaded to the laptop/computer or now, downloaded to a device like the Kindle, to take flight.

    Students spend so much money on hard copy textbooks and reading materials, and often have to carry them all around which is not convenient or easy to do. Digital textbooks on the Kindle will make it so quick and easy for students to access any of their books or other resources whenever and wherever they need them.

    I, myself, am a Kindle champion, and all in all, while $359 for this device plus the cost of the books etc. seems high, you are getting a great deal of value out of it. I can’t wait for the textbooks to be offered for my courses at graduate school.

    I recommend this to anyone and everyone, but especially for students considering this good news!

    For more info on the Kindle, visit http://www.prokindle.com!

  8. Enochrewt says:

    They won’t be any cheaper I bet. When I went to college I lost count of the times that I was required to buy a textbook for a class in order to put the money in someone’s pocket. The worst time was when a newish professor put the Dean or the department’s book on the list just so he could suck up to him. We never even used the textbook, but I’m sure the $1,000s that the students spent on it made a great 30 second conversation at some faculty cocktail party.

  9. zuzu says:

    They won’t be any cheaper I bet.

    Unless Kindle also offers the Low Price Edition of e-texts from India or China, just as Amazon does for pulped dead-tree books in their Marketplace.

  10. Enochrewt says:

    Errg I meant Dean of the department in my previous post.

    Zuzu: Maybe, but I still don’t think that the higher education establishment will fight it tooth an nail, a good portion of faculty member’s income is in book sales.

  11. AirPillo says:

    Considering that myself and others I know tend to offset the prices by reselling books (and not buying them from the damned college bookstore, which is bound to levy an extra 20% margin preying on ignorance of cheaper sources).

    Somehow I doubt I’d be able to offload a digital stack of calculus textbooks after they’re no longer necessary, though.

    Sounds like a good way to make higher education cost more money in the long run.

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