E-books are making their way to campus.
E-books only account for a tiny share of the market ($3.2 million in an entire quarter, $10.6 million less than the newest Harry Potter book sold in the first 24 hours). But, they're trying to grow.
They're offering 30% off normal textbook prices, which is a lot to cash-strapped college students, who on average spend $800 a year on books. This could be great news, but it's really more of the same. There's a catch: The books are only available for download to a single computer and expire after five months.
Personally, I think that's a big catch. With students having multiple devices (palm, several computers, phones with e-book readers), they should be able to read how they like. The expiration date is ridiculous.
This kind of business model begs for some angry inventive student to begin file sharing or hack into the system as a whole, leaving the e-book industry to whine like the MPAA. I propose a better idea: borrow the I-tunes model. The whole point of the Internet is flexibility. Let students download their textbooks by chapter at a less expensive price point. Allow a certain number of copies to their own devices. Put it in a format that's clean, but a pain to copy. Place it in a nice looking easy-to-use interface. Hyperlink to other things that could be of help, like Wikipedia. Ditch the idea of expiration dates.
This builds a loyal audience who will come back to you. It grows the e-book market. And, it's fair.