Digital college textbooks

Could this be the face of textbooks to come?

Just as Apple got millions of college students to leave their CD collections at home each September in favor of a tiny iPod, Amazon is trying to convince undergrads that there’s no reason to lug around a backpack full of textbooks. Just buy a Kindle.

This fall, Princeton University Press will begin publishing Kindle-edition textbooks. It's on a short list of printing houses that are testing the e-textbook waters. (Kindle has also snagged Yale, Oxford, and the University of California.) But Princeton is the only to attempt a Kindle-first launch, offering Robert Shiller’s new economics book “The Subprime Solution” on the Amazon electronic reader two weeks before students can buy a hard copy.

Kindle, which went on sale in November, attracted a lot of buzz. The device was backordered for weeks and now is on sale at 10 percent off.

But Kindle is really designed to replace paperbacks, not thick textbooks. For one, don’t expect "Gray's Anatomy"; the Kindle is not very good at graphics or diagrams (and securing the digital rights for some images is often more trouble than it's worth for publishers).

Nonetheless, Princeton plans to roll out hundreds of books through the gadget’s online store. UCal already offers 40 and wants to publish more.

Perhaps the Kindle will become the next iPod, as some have suggested, and enjoy ubiquity across college campuses. Then again, perhaps it will more closely resemble a different handheld: Palm – all the rage for a while and then ignored.

So, how are Kindle textbooks sales doing? Inside Higher Education reports that the University of California Press has sold at least one of its volumes “more than a dozen times in a month on Kindle.” Not the most inspiring anecdote, but everything has to start somewhere.

[Via Yahoo! Buzz]

Also check out:
Books blog: Why I bought a Kindle
Essay: Book 2.0? I prefer 1.0
Tech Review: Costly 'Kindle' reader gets a lot of it right

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