According to some studies, students spend about $900 per year on textbooks and textbook publishers are under intense scrutiny over prices that have risen at twice the rate of inflation since 1986. Minnesota-based Freeload Press is looking to fix that by offering free textbooks. The model: instead of trying to get money out of already cash-strapped college kids, get it from companies’ marketing and advertising budgets.
Students, or anyone else who fills out a five-minute survey, can download a PDF file of the book, which they can store on their hard drive and print.
Freeload will start this fall offering about 100 textbook titles, free of charge to the student. It sounds like a good idea, but will it catch on?
The model faces big obstacles. Freeload doesn’t yet have a stable of well-known textbook authors across a range of subjects, and it lacks the editorial and marketing muscle of the “Big 3” textbook publishers (Thomson, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill). Its textbooks don’t come with bells and whistles such as online study guides that bigger publishers have spent millions developing in order to lure professors _ who assign textbooks and are the industry’s real customers.
This Washington Post article is full of interesting textbook-related facts, like these:
A new Connecticut law requires that textbook sellers tell professors what their books will cost students, and other states are considering similar measures. Cost complaints come not just from students and parents but also teachers. A 2005 study by the National Association of College Stores Foundation found 65 percent of students don’t buy all the required course materials—which means many probably aren’t learning the material, either.
Freeload claims that they will have over 250,000 textbooks and study guides available by next year.