I can’t tell you how many times I heard morons in college talking about how they should, like, totally start a business where textbooks are cheaper for everyone. “The publishing companies are totally robbing us, bro!”
Here’s the thing: those recycling/redistribution businesses are still very costly because of storage. And the only websites that can really pull the idea off while keeping prices down are Half.com and Amazon, and that’s just because they’re both enormous.
So you need to change the playing field. Fortunately, that’s already starting to happen. The Kindle will change things, eventually. And you can be sure that Amazon is preparing the iTunes of college textbooks (and Apple probably is, too). So…
Someone needs to create the Napster of college textbooks. It’d be illegal, and it’d be difficult to pull off, but someone needs to start it. Here’s how:
- You research the most widely bought and distributed textbooks throughout the country. Focus only on the ones that the majority of colleges have in their curriculum (i.e. the ones that are used in huge classes that have hundreds of kids enrolled). These are the books that are mostly for freshmen. They are in the highest demand and will have the most substantial impact on the publishing companies’ bottom line.
- You rent a copy of those books.
- You scan each chapter separately, and save them all as PDFs.
After that, you create a unique downloading network solely for the college textbook niche and upload all of the PDFs. Then make it easy for others to do the same. Allow everyone to upload PDFs of their books, so that everything is decentralized.
The network will be similar to Napster in that students can search for books by typing in the title, author, or ISBN. They will download the chapter they need, and then they’ll stay on there to interact with other students.
How would they interact with each other?
Well, even though everyone on the network would have to be given anonymous user names (this is an illegal operation), they could still filter out members based on the school they are attending. That way, students can collaborate with each other if they need help on a teacher-specific assignment. They won’t have to reveal their names unless they choose to.
I can assure you, if this system was easy, not sketchy, and had enough books on it, it would spread like wildfire. Every idea like this catches on in dorms (remember myTunes?)
Why am I giving instructions for an illegal idea?
Because the system is flawed and ripe for disruption. I don’t advocate stealing people’s hard work, but this will eventually become a reality. As soon as the Kindle gets widely accepted in colleges (it will, but very reluctantly), kids will start stealing digital copies of textbooks in mass.
You can’t stop this. It will happen.