Titan Editorial: Lighten the load with eBooks

The future is here and digital distribution is king.

CDs are becoming obsolete now that music can be downloaded instantly, for cheap, and uploaded to any MP3 player.

The DVD and cinema industry is scared because Netflix’s instant watch program, along with Red Box DVD vending machines, is making movies available to the public for a dollar or less.

The blockbuster video game industry is having trouble keeping up with high production and publication costs, whereas smaller developers are banking on small, easy to make and produce downloadable casual games. Not to mention the ever-increasing amount of computer games made available for instant download from digital distributors such as Steam and Direct 2 Drive.

Even the newspaper and magazine industries are being crippled by the offering content for free on the Web, because there is currently no other feasible option.

For a while, the novel and textbook industries thought they were safe. They relied on a majority of the public not wanting to read lengthy books on computer screens or backlit devices. They assumed people wouldn’t want to give up the look, the feel and even the smell of the printed book. Well, too bad textbook publishers. Soon you won’t be able to get away with charging $50 to $200 for a book one student will use for three months. However, despite what publishers may think, this is a good thing for both them and the college student.

Walking into the Titan Bookstore or Little Professor is never a really joyful experience. You are about to make at least a $200 purchase, sometimes even $400, and walk out with a few books you will most likely read only what you are required to, and then sell back for far less than you spent. The textbook industry has been running this scam for years. The bigger the book, the glossier the pages and the more filler content per page, the more cash they can get from the student.

This can all change with the eBook. Several eReaders such as the Sony Reader, the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Nobles’ nook device all tout some form of wireless internet connectivity. Each with the ability to access eBook stores with thousands of book options. Not to mention that most major newspapers can be read on eBooks and will be uploaded early in the morning while you sleep.

If these stores introduced an eBook rental program where students could pay a much lower price for three to four months of access to their required textbooks, students could save hundreds of dollars a semester.

Sure the price is still pretty high on eReaders, with some of the top models with internet connectivity costing up to $250, not to mention the price of renting books throughout a college career. However, that is nothing compared to the amount of money it costs to buy every book either required or suggested for classes.

Digital book readers could seriously reduce the environmental impact of publishing and the throwing away of thousands of textbooks. What happens to older textbooks when the next edition comes out and all teachers require the new one? Sure, some get recycled or some teachers still allow them in class, but most of the books get thrown away or tossed in garages to rot.

Oh yeah, and most eReaders weigh less than a pound and are smaller than a piece of notebook paper.

Some people may wonder how this will be good for the publishing industry. To put it simply, a dramatic decrease in publishing costs. With less print versions of textbooks required, the less cash a company will need to publish, print and ship. Direct downloading of text files is practically instant. This also means students won’t have to wait for their textbooks to arrive in the mail. All students have to do is go home after receiving the class syllabus and download the textbook to their eReader, ready for the next class session.

Online access to eReaders also means that, soon, factual errors and typos can be fixed in the same way that a video game developer can release a patch to fix any in-game glitches. This way, textbook publishers and writers can ward off criticism in the matter of a day.

The eReader technology is advancing as fast as the public is accepting it. Models being produced by Fujitsu have color screens that are just as easy on the eyes as a regular eReader, which for students means highlighting text can be done digitally. Bigger hard drives and smoother internet connectivity will mean a more seamless experience.

Sure, the costs of textbooks won’t drop dramatically, but for math books and science books that can sometimes cost over $200, comparably, $50 is pretty cheap, making the total cost of being a college student sound a little less stressful. Let’s just hope it all catches on.

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