AEIdeas

The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute

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Discussion: (15 comments)

  1. I applaud the evolution but there is also a lesson here and that is productivity with respect to older technologies.

    No one ever said that textbooks were not valuable and needed…. we paid the authors, the gatekeepers, the “agreements” with authors and schools and we did not see too much in the way of alternatives …. until the technology came along that disrupted the status quo.

    Now – a lot of folks are ultimately going to lose their jobs and what used to be a career job to aspire to -will dramatically downsize.

    we’ll need far fewer bugger whip craftsman…

    However, what was organically valuable has not changed and that is the “content”.

    whether the content is ink on a page or bits in a computer, it is the content that is the fuel and who is to
    say that once the “book” parts gets a lot cheaper that the content part gets more costly?

  2. … who is to say that once the “book” parts gets a lot cheaper that the content part gets more costly?

    It is now the content part that is expensive Larry, You don’t believe many people are paying $180 for a 2 inch stack of printed paper, do you?

    1. re: ” who is to say that once the “book” parts gets a lot cheaper that the content part gets more costly?”:

      Ron – did you understand the “MORE” in MORE COSTLY boy?

      1. Look. Your original comment is incoherent even for you. What the eff are you trying to say? Maybe you could rewrite the whole thing so it comes closer to making sense.

        The price you pay for a textbook is the price of a license for the content. The cost of delivering it to you in a printed book is a small part of the price.

        Currently, a cartel of book publishers , textbook writers and instructors have students by the nuts. Frequent updating of content requires the frequent purchase of a whole new textbook for a given course, although only a small amount of the content has changed.

        Competition from online content providers has done what it always does in a free markets, and that is to lower prices, in this case dramatically.

        The cost of delivery is now negligible, updating is cheap and easy, and even printing is now reasonable. I can’t imagine why you think content cost will ever cost what it did in the past.

        1. content itself is similar to intellectual property – and my view is now that we’re evolving to online that the QUALITY of the content will become even more important.

          It’s one thing to have to buy a physical textbook that is also a bad textbook. All of us have run into this.

          But now with textbooks converted to online – and the ability to easily dump “bad” textbooks – the quest for good content is going to increase ….IMHO.

          the people that are really good at providing content that enables people to learn are going to be better rewarded through increased sales but also they’ll be in a better bargaining position if their content is recognized as superior.

          It’s a GOOD THING.

          do you follow ?

          1. I’m sure you believe there is a point there, but you haven’t made it clear what it is, except that competition is always a good thing as it provides more choices and lower prices, which are always good things. Is that what you mean?

            By the way “content itself” is always “content itself”, and may or may not be intellectual property.

  3. I applaud all of it. Hooray! Just for fun, I recently watched a youtube lecture on basic calculus taped at MIT in the 1960’s and available through MR University (banned in Minnesota, naturally). I had some great math teachers, but this guy was fantastic.

    No amount of lawsuits can really fight this happy trend.

    1. Hooray for more choices! Hooray for lower prices! Hooray for easier access!

      And, we can thank the textbook cartel for causing its own demise.

      1. it’s good that we’re moving from paper to digital but the value and quality of the content – no matter whether paper or digital is paramount.

        any/all online content is not necessarily good.

        the idea that is a “textbook” is “online” automatically means it’s a good thing is not necessarily true.

        as important to HOW you learn is an assessment of what you have learned – and if your learned knowledge actually qualifies you to produce something that someone will pay for.

        You can take all the online courses you want to “learn” how to be a Doctor – but how will you be allowed to practice – by saying you read all the online textbooks?

        1. And this is as it should be, and has always been true.

          Other than the difference in delivery and the resulting lower price, nothing has changed. All the concerns and questions you have had about hardcopy textbooks will also be true of online books.

          How one gets to be a doctor hasn’t changed in any way, and isn’t part of the subject of this post.

          1. re: ” nothing has changed. All the concerns and questions you have had about hardcopy textbooks will also be true of online books”

            wrong. There used to be some serious hurdles in getting
            a textbook actually published and actually approved for use in a given college …you could not just pick the textbook you wanted to use.

            In the current reporting of “the paper textbook is dead”, we have no shortage of people talking about some video lecture they saw that “really explained something well”.

            The question is – what will professors do now – with “textbooks” and how will that effect the industry?

            Thinking ahead about some realities which you seem not as inclined to do – what will the relationship with be with professors, students and “online” textbooks?

            Specifically – will the professor say online is fine but you have to use certain ones – which just happen to cost out the wazoo even as online?

            bottom line – technology IS creative destruction and it often brings sought after changes – and other changes not anticipated.

            I do not think the world of online textbooks has finished it’s evolution – it’s just starting and it may well not go entirely the way we think.

            you, as a student, could STILL end up with an expensive and bad textbook unless other changes also take place.

          2. re:wrong. There used to be some serious hurdles in getting a textbook actually published and actually approved for use in a given college …you could not just pick the textbook you wanted to use.

            Larry – ” nothing has changed. All the concerns and questions you have had about hardcopy textbooks will also be true of online books”

  4. And as Bernanke fights his mighty battle to inflate, competition and technological development will fight his efforts. At least for a while.

  5. Citizen B.

    Flatworld Knowledge provides “Principals of Economics” which:

    “… gives faculty the open license and tools to easily personalize textbooks online. Change words, move chapters — now a textbook by expert authors precisely fits your syllabus, all at a fair price for your students.

    Just wondering if anyone knows of instructors using this text or working on their own version via revisions? Maybe it could involve a team from a school department doing the revision work.

  6. Is there really a slowing of text-book price rises?

    Or is it primarily because they’re substituting lower-quality, cheaper to make and distribute e-books?

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