For students entering college this fall, one of their first surprises may be sticker shock—not at tuition, but at the cost of reading materials. Textbook prices have nearly tripled since 1994, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and many students routinely spend as much as $1,000 a year on course reading. First-year students at Columbia this fall will pay as much as $213.75 for Zumdahl’s Chemical Principles or $255.75 for Stewart’s Calculus.
The Fight Over Formats: All or Nothing
Random House and the Jackal are going at it and I can’t blame them. They are fighting over some very valuable territory. We’ve all read lots about trying to claim backlist ebook rights, about the conflict of interest in becoming an agent-publisher, about single-channel exclusives being a bad idea, blah, blah, blah. Yes, neither side is squeaky clean and maybe neither was acting like the sharpest knife in the drawer at different points in time, but this turf war has raised a bigger problem:
Does it make sense to separate ebook rights from print rights?
Being an early adopter of new technology usually gives one a few bumps. Often, those can be goose bumps; sometimes they are less thrilling. It's the trade-off you make for stepping in early before the kinks are worked out. This is why I haven't been upset with Apple because their iBooks app hasn't been the perfect eReader from day one. I figured they'd fine tune the app over time.
My second eureka insight arising from Casson's Libraries in the Ancient World centres around the question of "who makes money from books?". Whilst we are accustomed to the norm that (some) authors, (most) publishers and (most) booksellers are able to make money out of words, it's salutary to note that this was certainly not the case in the ancient world. In all of the ancient societies reading and writing were high status activities, and anyone who was anyone sought to write down and disseminate their works
Some bloggers have turned this into a generalised fact. The e-consultancy blog reports it as a universal truth that magazine subscriptions are not allowed: "So far, no other publisher has been able to sell subscriptions through the iTunes store either." This is completely false.