Leveling the Playing Field for College Students

Am I referring to affirmative action?  Pell Grants?  Forgiveness of student loans?

No, I’m talking about the primary area where college students are actually plagued by injustice.  I am talking about the market for textbooks.

Though the world of academia tilts heavily to the left, the professor/textbook writers of the world participate as rapaciously in cutthroat capitalism as anyone on the planet.

Students get sticker shock when they go to buy a particular text.  So, they resort to the used market, which is better than ever thanks to ebay, half.com, and a variety of other outlets.

But the textbook writers regularly act to destroy the value of the old editions by continually issuing new ones whether necessary or not.  The Nobel winning liberal economist Paul Samuelson earned a fortune on his many-times updated standard text.

The situation is on the verge of changing, though.  Whether you want to own cherished novels or books of history as an e-book is one question.  Owning college texts as e-books is a slam-dunk yes.  And because the texts are electronic and can be easily altered, students have a strong case to expect updates as a matter of course to be either free or offered for a nominal additional cost. Certainly, they don’t have to be forced to pay for the hard covers, the glossy paper, and the full color ink.

The day of the $20 college text may finally be here.  And the incentive to continually offer updated versions with an extra paragraph here or there may be coming to an end.

The company to do it is Amazon.  Much has been made of the iPhone as a device for reading books, but I can’t imagine using that small screen for textbooks where you need to take notes, mark passages, etc.  The Kindle is exactly that kind of device. And a student version may eventually be forthcoming.

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