Textbook prices are soaring into the hundreds of dollars, but in some courses this fall, students won’t pay a dime. The catch: Their textbooks will have ads for companies including FedEx Kinko’s and Pura Vida coffee.
Selling ad space keeps newspapers, magazines, Web sites and television either cheap or free. But so far, the model hasn’t spread to college textbooks _ partly for fear that faculty would consider ads undignified. The upshot is that textbooks now cost students, according to various studies, about $900 per year.
Now, a small Minnesota startup is trying to shake up the status quo in the $6 billion college textbook industry. Freeload Press will offer more than 100 titles this fall _ mostly for business courses _ completely free. Students, or anyone else who fills out a five-minute survey, can download a PDF file of the book, which they can store on their hard drive and print.
I often protest aggressive brandalism. But if the brandalism lowers the cost of text books for students, I guess the practice becomes more tolerable. Then again, why not just forget the books, and put everything online — e-text books? Certainly, descent notebook PCs can be purchased for less than the $900 students pay per year.