The Evil Twin, the Seed of Satan – Digital Textbooks

A More Efficient Way for Publishers to Break Our Pockets  


extexts vs digital

Last week, we began to discuss open-source textbooks, see YOU Have Been Cheated!, as a viable option to overpriced textbooks. After reading the post, that may have lead you to consider digital textbooks. They’re almost the same thing, right? Not really! The biggest difference is that open source textbooks are FREE and digital textbooks cost A LOT! Digital textbooks costs a few pennies less than print textbooks but can also be more expensive.

For 2 semesters I took Spanish to fulfill my language requirement for my English Education degree at UMD. Learning languages has never been my cup of tea and to make it worse the Spanish department required a supplemental online program that cost mucho dinero. There was no way around it! The school required it for all the classes. Without MySpanish Lab, the supplemental online program, it would be impossible for a student to receive above a 90% because MySpanishLab was 10% of the final grade. Even though I found the program helpful, it cost close to $100.That may not seem very expensive to you, but for me that was working a whole week at a beauty supply store making minimum wage.

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Why does it cost so much to run an online program? Even though the cartoon publisher says, “You’ve been misinformed”. I believe that there is a BAG OF MONEY that the publishers are hiding as the cartoon suggests. Even though publishers claim that digital textbooks are expensive because of the knowledge needed to create them, the Daily Illini, a publication by the University of Illinois, proves this to be inaccurate. In Johnathan Hettinger’s article, For most college professors, money made from own textbooks provides little, Hettinger reports that Bruce Levine, a professor at the University of Illinois, said that he was only making, “10 cents a copy for the 30 copies in the class [and] couldn’t believe the student’s outrage [when the students complained about him using his own textbooks]”. So where is the rest of this money going? PUBLISHERS!!!!

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Instead of publishers using online textbooks as a means to help alleviate the burden of textbook costs, they are taking part of the 77.4% they make and POCKETING IT! Don’t get me wrong, producing a book is labor intensive, but not that much!!!

In Digital Textbooks: Publishers and the Unrealized Promise, publishers are EXPOSED even further. The article says that, “The legacy publishers will tell you that they can’t make digital textbooks both high quality and affordable, but that’s not the issue. It’s that they don’t want to.” Why don’t they want to? BECAUSE they fear they will lose money. So how have they been trying to fix the problem of losing money? By offering the text for only 6 month access and providing low quality e-texts almost in hopes that students won’t purchase them.

Not only do students have to deal with the cost of e-texts, they also have to be concerned about the quality of the product. Byron Brown, a professor of economics at Michigan State University says, “Current e-texts are also a markedly inferior product. They are static PDF knockoffs of vertically oriented print pages. That means they don’t display well on most computer screens, and they resist printing an easy-to-read copy by inexplicably downsizing the fonts for home printing”.

Currently, only 15% of students choose the e-text over the print text. We have to do something about this!!!

We need to push publishers to

  • take the time to improve digital texts
  •  also push them to lower prices

Digital Textbooks don’t have to be the Evil Twin!!! Or the Seed of Satan!!!

Click here to sign Textbook Busters’ petition to publishers.