The upcoming Apple press event scheduled for this Thursday is rumored to bring a new way to author, distribute and read textbooks. Picking up on a ZDNet article, Dave Caolo reiterated an argument he made regarding the benefits of digital textbooks for publishers:
What happens at the end of each semester? Students sell their used books back to the campus bookstore, which the school then re-sells to next year’s class. The publishers earn nothing from the sale of used books, which e-books would eliminate.
Should Apple manage to deliver an appealing solution for the digital distribution of textbooks, there might be even bigger implications for publishers and students than many of us are considering at this point. With a resale market effectively gone, educational publishers could lower the prices of books, as the need to cover costs and make a profit during the first year of sales wouldn’t be as great. Books, especially in higher education, tend to be very expensive, making it costly for students to easily obtain up-to-date information on certain subjects.
Furthermore, the licensing model might be very important: Textbooks probably won’t be offered as a standard ePub, but be subjected to some kind of DRM. This would bar customers from moving purchased content to a platform other than Apple’s. Especially in higher education this could prove to be a strong deterrent, if students and scientists find the possibilities of consumption too limiting.
Finally, Customers’ expectations regarding the price of corrected and new editions of a book they’ve purchased might shift. People have gotten used to getting an almost infinite number of free updates for apps bought in the App Store; trying to sell customers a nigh unchanged book for the same price might not be easy in a digital distribution.
These are only three issues that will sooner or later have to be addressed, should a digital distribution solution for textbooks see the light of day on Thursday. Trust us, there’s probably a myriad of other concerns and problems a revamped textbook publishing platform could have on the industry. Just ask The Financial Times how they felt about having to pay Apple a stipend for their subscriptions. Short version, they decided to leave the App Store and create an HTML 5 application instead. No one saw that one coming when Apple extended a helping hand to magazine and news publishers.