Skip to main content

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.

Similar Articles


Simon June 3, 2012 um 8:32 pm

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.

David Miller June 3, 2012 um 8:58 pm

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.

Phil Hill June 3, 2012 um 11:37 pm

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.

Nate Hoffelder June 4, 2012 um 6:38 am

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.

the rodent June 4, 2012 um 2:25 pm

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. 😉

Write a Comment