The VSU School of Business have taken what i'd call the next logical step in textbooks. They've signed a volume purchase contract with Flat World Knowledge.
Here's the thing. Given that 1 student registered for a class = 1 textbook needed (more or less), why not build the textbook cost into the class fees? Yes, it will reduce student registration, but it wwill also give the school admins a pretty good idea when the textbook cost is too high.
That's not quite why VSU did it, though:
Why do students have to pay for college textbooks? Couldn't the reading material be considered part of the college infrastructure paid for by officials as part of tuition, like classroom buildings and course-management systems?
Virginia State University is experimenting with that idea this fall, with a new effort to give free e-textbooks to students in its business school for eight core courses. The university recently negotiated a deal with upstart publisher Flat World Knowledge that treats buying e-books like buying campuswide software—with the institution paying a small per-student fee. The university plans to formally announce the deal Tuesday.
It's rather interesting when you contrast this business school with the Darden School at UVA. Darden has one of the most outrageous ebook policies I've ever seen at a school. Darden develops and published case studies, and they offer those case studies as PDFs.
Here's the ridiculous part: the PDFs have a 2 week expiration, and they cost only slightly less than a paper copy. So basically you're paying list price to rent the PDF. Nuts, isn't it?