When I went to school and college, textbooks were cheap. Especially because I was in India. But when Manju did her MBA here, the prices of textbooks hit me like a ton of bricks. She paid more for textbooks in one semester than I paid in my entire life for textbooks. Including my MBA. The cost of textbooks in college is enormous.
In addition to the high prices, these books were very heavy as well. And they took up a lot of space at home. Most of all they used up a lot of trees, ink, shelf space, and were slow to arrive. All this will be a thing of the past now that the iPad is here.
I believe that the iPad will replace college textbooks and probably wipe out several middlemen business in the textbook industry. Not only will the iPad make the textbooks lighter (weighing next to 0 grams), it will also make them cheaper by eliminating all the inventory costs. And best of all, it will enhance the experience of reading a text book. Images will give way to videos. Authors will be able to push updates of errata. Students will be able to share and compare notes. Simple tables will become active – sortable, filterable, summarizeable, and interactive. And best of all, the books will be searchable and easy to navigate.
There was a time when I used to print PDFs because it felt more comfortable to read the paper. But those days are gone. With much better screen resolutions, I hardly print any more. If the iPad 2 comes out with Retina display that will signal the beginning of the end of books as we know it.