It is clear to anyone who looks at the state of textbooks today that the system is broken. It does not work well for anyone, but it is especially hard on students, who typically pay $1,000 a year or more for textbooks.
Everyone with a financial stake in the textbook business is looking for a new model. That is especially true for publishers, but also for bookstores and authors. Macmillan’s recent announcement of its DynamicBooks program, which provides a high degree of customization with electronic and print-on-demand capabilities, is typical. Most major textbook publishers have or are planning something similar.
Several textbook-rental companies, including Chegg.com, CollegeBookRenter.com, and BookRenter.com, have made inroads into college campuses, and major college-bookstore operators are exploring rental programs as well. Start-ups like Flat World Knowledge offer their textbooks free on the Web and sell a variety of versions of the text (print-on-demand books, printable PDF’s of chapters, and MP3 files) and support materials. Connexions and numerous other groups provide platforms for a growing number of open textbooks.