on demand textbook publishing [was Re: [FoRK] Sony's 2nd gen ebook reader site]

Ken Meltsner meltsner
Fri Jan 6 15:13:04 PST 2006

On 1/6/06, Luis Villa <luis.villa at gmail.com> wrote:
> Just as a data point, when I saw R. Preston McAfee had published his
> intro to econ textbook (352 pages) under a CC license I suggested he
> publish it at lulu.com. It was available the next day for $11.60 plus
> shipping, which he said was less than he'd been paying to get it
> printed at the local copy shop. So the economics of book publishing
> (particularly low print run textbooks) are soon going to be upended
> anyway, I think.

See, that's the point -- you can print, on demand, a full textbook for
$11.60 including the printer's profit.  That's an approximation of the
*maximum* that a publisher can "save" by moving a book from paper to

It's an approximation because the $11.60 doesn't include warehousing
or shipping costs, but is probably somewhat high when compared to
typical textbook printing costs.

Lowering costs won't drive academic ebook adoption; I fear DRM and the
elimination of used book sales will be the real driver.  There's a
silver lining, though:

Just as Linux is "considered" to be the big threat to Windows,
projects like MIT"s OCW will be viewed as threats to traditional
textbook publishing.  And the more desperate publishers become to
protect their turf. the more professors will choose OCW-like texts
instead of proprietary ones....


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