Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why I want an iPad for school

The iPad may not be the best device for reading a book.  But just stopping at the transfer of printed words onto the page is selling the new device and new market space very short.  I can imagine a text book on physics with integrated video of the Galloping Gerty bridge disaster or built-in physics simulator such as Crayon Physics or Enigmo (see image).  

Perhaps the Kindle is a better e-book reader (electric ink is a great technology).  But what I would be excited about is the ability to have all my books in one book bag, and room for lunch and a sweater.  Teacher may be excited also, no more excuses about forgetting that text book today, all your books are on one device.

Not to mention the price, a typical academic text book cost $125.  One must wonder if the price point for a text book is so much higher than a best seller because of economies of scale in printing.  I think there is a lot of room for a better price point for an e-book in the education market place.  I expect Apple to address this in about one year.  If the iPad makes it out of the starting gate and has the impact that its cousin the iPhone did, then the text book market is in for a disruption. 

The New York Times explains that "consumers exaggerate the savings and have developed unrealistic expectations about how low the prices of e-books can go." Here's what we're forgetting:
On a typical hardcover, the publisher sets a suggested retail price. Let’s say it is $26. The bookseller will generally pay the publisher $13. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about $3.25 to print, store and ship the book, including unsold copies returned to the publisher by booksellers.

For cover design, typesetting and copy-editing, the publisher pays about 80 cents. Marketing costs average around $1 but may go higher or lower depending on the title. Most of these costs will decline on a per-unit basis as a book sells more copies.
Let’s not forget the author, who is generally paid a 15 percent royalty on the hardcover price, which on a $26 book works out to $3.90. For big best-selling authors — and even occasionally first-time writers whose publishers have taken a risk — the author’s advance may be so large that the author effectively gets a higher slice of the gross revenue.
I'm betting that the typical college text book author doesn't receive the royalty fees that the best selling authors receive.  One has to wonder where the large difference is in price.

I'm looking forward to the text-book game being changed.
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