At the Ref Desk (11/18/17): Lots of phone requests today. Wonder why... :-) [more...]

Overpriced E-Books No Bargain for Students

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 12/5/09 (6:57pm)

Chicago Tribune logoI missed this article on ways to save money on college textbooks when it first came out. Most of it your average college student would know by heart after the first quarter or semester -- they'd know it that is, if they wanted to avoid bankruptcy. But what really caught my eye was this final warning from 'textbooks advocate' Nicole Allen about e-books:

The one option Allen warned students against buying was e-book versions of texts. A number of publishers offer online books for purchase, she noted, but they are one-year rentals.

By and large, the e-books are available only through an Internet connection, and many restrict the number of pages you can print at one time.

In this case, the calculus e-book cost $100, about $40 more than Chegg's rental and only about $20 less than buying a used hard copy. And you have nothing to resell. [Kristof, Kathy M., "Turning the page on pricey textbooks", Chicago Tribune (9/4/2009):1,29.]

Basically they're saying, why should you rent it for a limited time when for just $20 more it can be yours forever? I think this kind of calculation is absolutely de rigueur not only for students but for institutions thinking of investing in these potentially ephemeral yet costly products.