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Textbook Rental – Boon or Bust for Students

March 11, 2013

How digital textbooks and other tutorial materials will be distributed, managed and paid for in the future has changed into a hot subject among educational establishments, textbook publishers and ed tech sellers. For ages the university textbook publisher financial model has been consistent. Almost all of the cash the publisher gets for a new edition comes in the 1st semester.

Over the leftover life of that edition, competition and used books gnaw up an enlarging quantity of the share of the market and cut back the publisher income to a drip. This explains why publishers charge high costs for the books so that they can be certain to regain their costs.  From a student’s viewpoint, the medium cost of that textbook is comparable most all copies that first semester cost full retail price, with less expensive used books making up more of the volume in successive semesters.  Used book dealers make their cash after the 1st semester presuming they bet properly on the books still being in demand.  They buy back books they suspect will be in need again, and decline to repurchase books that will not be used and longer.

In a textbook rental eventuality, things change for everybody : Publishers get less money that first semester reflecting the 40-70% off the average retail ebook price, but continue to get similar cash levels in successive semesters because there are just a few if any used books.  Their cash curve, which before was very front-loaded, is actually more level. In reality the continuing income potential could in a number of cases extend the hyper-accelerated revision cycle leaving the same edition in play for longer  further raising the profitableness of that edition.

Sounds a bit like a win for the publisher.  Scholars  get to spend less that first semester for their textbook, but in successive semesters can finish up coughing up more as there are no more inexpensive used books.

Sounds a bit like a loss for the scholar unless they are in that first semester.  Used book dealers actually get screwed on this one, since their supply and market both dry up wholly.

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