Can Amazon’s Kindle disrupt the current textbook market?

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in July 2009

400 words / 2 min.
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BizOp News asks the question: “Is the Kindle DX: Amazon’s 9.7” Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) a disruptive device for the textbook market?”

Please note that this post is from 2009. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 09:  A reporter holds the ...
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BizOp News asks the question:

Is the Kindle DX: Amazon‘s 9.7″ Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) a disruptive device for the textbook market?

via The BizOp News | Due Diligence : Can Kindle Replace Text Books?

His main argument is that “Kindle threatens the established textbook market, because textbooks can be treated as software, and rental items. You only want the text for one course, you rent it.”

He believes, along with others, that Amazon will likely act to push legal textbook authors to publish ebooks – but they will be accompanied with licensing and DRM that will ensure their limited distribution and use and, presumably, undermine the used textbook market as well.

I believe the Kindle – and perhaps other devices like it – may indeed revolutionize the market. I am not convinced that all textbooks are amenable to an electronic model in terms of ease of use, but that may not stop the attempt by Amazon to push it.

To be honest, I suspect the entrenched nature of law and law schools will prevent Amazon’s complete success in any rapid fashion – I suspect a complete changeover to electronic books will simply run into too much resistance.

I also believe that “renting” textbooks stands a decent chance of generating a backlash against the current ebook licensing approach, as students (never ones to enjoy restrictions, especially ones that cost them money) discover they can’t pass on their textbooks to others by selling or giving them away.

Still, Amazon still has a chance to disrupt the market without such a backlash – if the purchase price paid by students for books justifies the more limited rights they will enjoy. If Amazon can pull it off, everyone will benefit – if they give in to publishers and keep prices artificially high – we will see a backlash and disruption of a different sort.