Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Recently, Sony came out with an ebook reader to very little fanfare. They seem to be targeting the device to the casual reader, but, because there seems to be no advantage to buying an expensive ebook reader over buying inexpensive paper books, that are just as portable and easy-to-read, this does not seem like a smart course of action. Only a librophile who reads volumes upon volumes would be tempted to buy this device. It would save him money in the long run because, even though the reader would be a costly initial expense, he would save money on the quantity of books he bought. (Theoretically the books would be cheaper; the publishers would be able to pass along the savings from not having to print, bind, and ship along to the consumer.) However, there seems to be another market (besides the librophiles) who would benefit from the Sony Reader: public schools and college students buying textbooks.

Public schools could save large amounts of money on ebooks, even if they had to supply all their students with ebook readers (which is a cost they could feasibly pass on to parents of students). Having to replace worn or outdated books gets expensive. And public schools order literally tons of books, so any small money-saving endeavor could save a school thousands over the course of a few years. School districts could save millions in the course of ten years.

College students could also greatly benefit from this device, if coupled with certain services. I've spent hundreds of dollars on textbooks from which I only read a few chapters. Many professors have little regard for how much textbooks cost, and instead focus on the information they provide. So, they end up mixing and matching several chapters from a textbook here and a couple essays from a textbook there to construct their lesson plan for the semester. So, I might end up spending $50 on a textbook that I only read a fifth of. If given the chance, I would rather only pay a fifth of the money for the fifth that book that contains the particular information the professor wants me to read for the class. Hell, I'd probably even pay more than that, just so I don't have to buy the whole book and waste money. This is something that ebooks could do.

Sony (or a textbook publishing house, or anybody else for that matter) could set up an iTunesesque service that would allow a user to download content from textbooks. The beauty is that this service could not only sell books as a whole (as in buying a whole CD from iTunes), but they could sell the book in chapters as well (like buying one song from an album). Of course, just like iTunes, the added-up cost of buying all the chapters of a book individually could equal more that just buying the book itself, so if a person did want the whole thing, they could get it at a cheaper price. But the individual chapter prices would be inflated, and people would still be willing to pay because it's cheaper for them in the long-run.

The only problem that I could see with this is that university bookstores would have a hissyfit because they wouldn't be able to buy back students' used books and then sell them back to them at inflated prices. But who cares; fuck the bookstores. They've been ripping off poor college kids like me for decades. I could care less.

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  1. Maybe you ought to go into business...good ideas...but then you'd have to stay in school and buy more text books.

  2. By the way, I'm not really anonymous...I am your mother.


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