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They would not fall that far. I would be very surprised if any of my math textbooks would fall below $25, and even that level seems unlikely.

I would be surprised if they did not fall that far. I think you are way underestimating the future and technology. I think you may be stuck in the current paradigm. I may be overestimating the time frame, but this will happen. When somebody looked at a rotary phone in 1975, they would have never conceived of an iPhone. When the $200 HP calculator came out in the 70s, who would have imagined a $2 solar powered calculator or said that every student will own one of these?

Look at the kind of content becoming available for free already.

Kahn Academy has 3400 videos (about 10 minutes each). Look at just the 12 math subjects through Calculus, differential equations, linear algebra. This is a glimpse at the future.

Yes, there is a lot of bloat in the system that can be removed. But look at the e-book market on Amazon. Plenty of books cannot go below the $12.99 level due to price floors set by the publisher. And that's for books that sell for under $25 at Barnes and Noble. If the book currently sells for $100+, the publisher is still going to step in, but at a much higher level.

It is not just bloat, it is the pricing of a monopoly. There are only a few publishers of text books, the market for hard books is locked. Why can't the Gates foundation fund creating the best elementary school math books? Books that once written don't have to change, of if they have minor fixes, they are automatically updated - free and immediate. Why can't Apple create or sponsor some innovative iCourses to start the ball rolling? Look at what Apple has done to the music industry.

Sure, a publisher has no incentive to sell Harry Potter cheaper as an e-book than as paper, and they make even more profits. But "new" books sell because they are interesting and get on Oprah's book list. But a math book is not in that category. Once a great one is written, why write a new one every year or every 4 years. Addition does not change.

You can then say...what about individuals coming to the table and creating their own book? Well, there are not that many people with all of the skills needed to create and market a textbook. It's a ton of work -- quite different from the comedian you reference -- and that's before you even get to the point of convincing someone to actually buy your book.

There are sufficient people with those skills. Besides, you don't need very many. Again, it is not like Harry Potter where you want to keep the series going and you need to be a brilliant writer to make that happen. Somebody already writes those books. They probably make squat for it. In the recording industry, the band gets about a dollar an album. Let's say a math book author gets the same. What if he realized he could write that same content in an app or e-book that sells for $1 but he can sell 10 times as many or 100 times as many? Writing Angry Birds was a lot of work, but somebody did it and the public accepted it and bought it. It will be different for schools and much more difficult for school districts, who are scared to make a bad decision, so they just go with whatever Texas chooses. But it will start slowly, flexible charter schools can make that decision without a bureaucracy to deal with. Parents might start using them as supplemental aids at home (like Kahn Academy) and then start to force the schools to buy into it.

Even though I really love Kahn Academy, it is not even interactive. They are just 10 minute YouTube videos (but you can take some test, get results, track history and progress). But there are already apps out that that are really interactive and cool. Imagine a biology app that lets you slide your finger to watch mitosis in forward and reverse until you get it.

Apple has a long history of giving schools devices to "brainwash" the students into loving Apple, get publicity and goose future sales, but the schools get a lot out of it too. Might they create a cheap school iPad, some starter apps and then give it away in experimental programs with the hopes that schools and parents will start buying them.

The world is changing, will change and can't be stopped. We need to completely change the way we look at teaching and learning. This is the biggest change since we went from one-room school houses to individual classes and teachers. Get your ticket and climb on board.

Who would have thought that millions of computers are running a free operating system (Linux), including many in major corporations and data centers? This was all done though open source on the internet. For some reason, people make update for free, don't know why, but it works. Wikipedia, which has plenty of issues, is updated for free by the world. Imagine a school book that can receive input from anyone, but maybe has a better regulated update process than Wikipedia.

There are all sorts of possibilities, many that none of us see yet, but with almost 7 billion people in the world and the internet as our playground and storefront, this will happen. Text book publishing on paper is doomed.
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