How Amazon Could Help Students Not Break Their Backs OR Their Budgets

by Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Amazon KindleThis morning I received an email from Amazon informing me that there are now over 170,000 books, magazines, and newspapers available for the Kindle. Still, a quick search informed me that of the three books that I ordered from Amazon last week, not one was available in Kindle form. I’m a firm believer in the power of the long tail, and anything that can only provide me with bestsellers doesn’t really do it for me. If I want a book I could find in a bookstore, I’d go to a bookstore. I like bookstores.

Still, I realize that for most people the joy of an ebook reader has more to do with convenience and a streamlined lifestyle than selection. If the average-sized book was too big to fit in my purse, I’d be inclined to agree. But for those of us that have large collections of books, aren’t we generally happy having them filling our bookshelves at home? It’s not as if we have to carry them all around with us all the time.

textbooks… or do we? Remember those days when your bag was bursting at the seams with textbooks? Lugging around a backpack that weighed a million pounds as you crossed campus for another class? And even better, shelling out hundreds and hundreds of dollars for textbooks at the beginning of a college semester? In fact, textbook prices just keep getting higher and higher, a problem compounded by the fact that publishers are constantly releasing “updated” volumes that destroy the used book market.

Textbook piracy is becoming a huge issue, which isn’t an unsuprising consequence of the rising costs. It also shows that students apparently don’t mind having their textbooks in electronic form. So imagine this: all of your textbooks on an e-book reader. Presumably a way to save your back and your budget. Or I thought so before doing a quick Amazon search and realizing that the typical $9.99 Kindle book price definitely does not apply to the small selection of textbooks that they do have. If you could even manage to find the one you needed, you’d still be shelling out $100 for a Kindle version of that Calculus textbook.

Apparently Amazon wants to get into the textbook business, considering the huge promotion that they had in August, giving away three months free of Amazon Prime to customers who purchased over $100 worth of textbooks. Offering cheaper, e-book versions would probably boost their Kindle sales as well.

Not that the textbook publishers would ever go for this idea, since I’m sure they’re enjoying the money that pours in every August and January. But if piracy gets to be an even bigger problem for them, they’re going to have to do something.

[Image Source: Flickr]