The Answer to Escalating Textbook Prices?
Freeload Press, a Minnesota-based publisher and distributor, made headlines last year upon publishing college textbooks featuring advertising for everything from study guides to credit card companies. The company offers these books to students at significantly reduced prices in print or PDF format, and many for free download on its Web site. The goal is to offset the constantly increasing price of required course-reading materials for college students. Freeload now has almost 250 student versions available for download.
An academic panel helps with ad placement in the PDF e-textbooks, and the “StudyBreak Ads” are placed in natural breaks in the printed books. Freeload Press Founder and CEO Tom Doran talks about the new ad-supported business model and his expectations that other publishers soon will be on board.
● What do you believe is wrong with the current model of textbook publishing?
Tom Doran: Obviously, the big thing is the price. Students are increasingly not buying textbooks. The National Association of College Stores uses a figure that 64 percent of students are not buying all their required course material. We think that puts everybody’s investment in higher education at risk. Most instructors agree that textbooks are critical to a course’s success.
Why is [the price high]? It’s a couple factors. It’s not just the publishers. Sometimes the publishers take too much of the long-end of the stick on this one. It’s expensive to [produce quality] textbooks and provide all the instructor material. But it’s a blend of different things, including the distribution system, used books and the amount of returns. All those factors combined make it a perfect storm.
The bottom line is that the price is too high. The numbers you see out there [are between] $650 and $900 a year that a typical student pays for textbooks. For a lot of these kids … there’s sticker shock. A lot of times they’re the ones who are paying. …We’ve been in bookstores and have literally seen kids break into tears. It’s a real problem.