Here’s the True Value of Digital Textbooks (Infographic)

The excerpt blog DT>Digital Textbooks pointed me at the following infographic. It’s quite simple and it actually contains only one data point. It’s something I knew but had never put together before: the rental cost of a digital textbook vs media subscriptions.

Students can get a Spotify and Netflix subscription for about the same cost as a single Coursesmart digital textbook. One the one hand, ~$20 gets them access to tens of thousands of songs, movies, and TV shows, while on the other hand they get a single textbook.

Gee I wonder which is the better value?

More Infographics

More Infographics

I know that this is an overly simplistic example but it is still mostly true.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Simon3 June, 2012

    Yeah, it’s simplistic alright.

    The infographic compares mass market with niche market. What is sold on the mass market will always be cheaper than what is offered in a niche market. It’s basic economies of scale.

    For example $40.00 might buy you 4 mass market paperbacks, but only one hardcover.

    Is this a rip-off? Not to the person who loves hardcovers.

    Now, a legitimate argument could be made that textbooks are overprice and milking a captive audience. But this is not the way to make it.

  2. David Miller3 June, 2012

    Yep, this is definitely an apples and oranges comparison, but that doesn’t make coursesmart’s digital textbooks are an amazing value. They’re a very poor value, when compared with second-hand marketplace alternatives. It’s usually more expensive to rent a digital book from coursesmart than it is to BUY a used hard copy of the same book from Amazon’s marketplace. Plus you can sell the hard copy back when you’re done with it.

  3. Phil Hill3 June, 2012

    If you read the blog post that accompanies the graphic, you’ll see an acknowledgement that it is not pure apples-to-apples. But think about the student’s perspective. It’s not just that the scale is out of whack (40k vs. 1 in terms of title selection), it’s also the complete lack of choice for textbooks – where other markets have migrated to a point where the consumer has some choice involved.

    Do you think a student thinks ‘that’s ok, it’s a niche market; I should have no choice and forget my concept of value for digital content’?

    Simplistic, yes. Apples-to-oranges, yes. But worth considering from a consumer’s point of view to see just how broken the textbook market is.

    1. Nate Hoffelder4 June, 2012

      Ah, I hadn’t found the blog post, just the infographic. Thanks.

      And they’re right; that’s exactly how I thought of the situation back when I was a student.

  4. the rodent4 June, 2012

    Perhaps a smart prof could just glean lessons all from films and Nova episodes on Netflix and skip the book entirely. And have a party with all the cash the class saves in a term. 😉


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top