Feds Move to Prevent Kindle Readers for Use With College Textbooks

-By Warner Todd Huston

It’s the age of the computer, right? The day has arrived when our lives are increasingly conducted in cyberspace, online, over cell phones and web enabled devices. So, shouldn’t it be a natural thing that college textbooks begin to migrate to an electronic variety instead of dithering in the old fashioned world of printed paper? You might have an enthusiastic “yes, yes, yes” in mind, but then again you wouldn’t be Obama’s Department of Justice because they say “no, no, no.”

Byron York recently wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner that explained why the DOJ was attacking the idea of Kindle readers and e-books for college textbooks and preventing colleges and universities from offering them to students. York reports that the DOJ ridiculously made the claim that electronic book readers like Amazon’s Kindle violated the “civil rights” of the blind and so, e-books violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because of this the DOJ insisted that several pilot programs in colleges and universities across the country be discontinued until e-books can be “accessible” to blind people.

Now, according to the National Federation of the Blind, there are somewhere around 100,000 blind school aged children our of about 1.3 million total blind Americans. Only a portion of those will go on to college, of course. NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) estimates that there will be close to three million students attending college. So, we are holding back the advancement of millions for the comfort several thousand? Does that even make sense? Can’t blind students have other arrangements made for them, arrangements that won’t retard the progress of millions of sighted students?

In any case, that is what the Justice Department is claiming. The Kindle version of textbooks is a violation of the rights of blind people. One wonders how a regular printed textbook is any less a violation, but that is another question.

But let me suggest another reason why Obama’s administration may have jumped so quickly to quash the movement of textbooks moving from the old paper and binding style to the e-book editions.

As one searches for stories on the e-textbook idea the one common feature of the coverage is the question of savings. E-books cost practically nothing to manufacture in comparison to traditional printed books. Because of this everyone expects that e-textbooks will be far, far cheaper than the high dollar costs of traditional textbooks.

And this reduction in costs, ladies and gentlemen, is a ding in the pocket book of the many thousands of professors that write and publish the textbooks that they then force their students to purchase to use as classroom material.

I want to posit the possibility that teachers and universities would be the first ones to lose income if e-textbooks were to become the norm and the exorbitant prices of textbooks falls to manageable proportions for students. Because of this it is sure that teachers, universities and unions are not fond of the idea of e-textbooks.

It has for decades been a scam offering exceedingly easy money for many professors. They get a teaching job, they write a manual or textbook and then they get the university of college to force student to buy these books for class work. Often times these books start in the $80 range and go up leaving the professor with a tidy $10 to $20 profit for every book sold to a captive audience.

But many students are getting sick and tired of this expensive game played at their expense. Lawmakers in Tennessee, for instance, talked about banning textbook royalties so that students weren’t raked over the coals for every class they take.

Yes, e-textbooks would put a major crimp in the income of teachers across the country. A teacher or professor can’t make $20 an e-book if the things only go for $20 in the first place!

I hope someone with the resources of a Byron York looks into this story a little closer. I would guess that somewhere down the line the teachers unions contacted the Obama administration in a desperate bid to stop e-textbooks from coming to our schools because an e-textbook means lost income for their union members. And to be sure 99 percent of America’s professors are Obama supporters. This is a constituency to which Obama has close ties.

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  • College textbooks are so expensive it's crazy.. with 2 in school I am always researching how to save money on their college textbooks every semester. I just came across this article:http://www.celebrationideasonline.com/saving-money-on-college-textbooks.html that has some good ideas for options other than the campus bookstore.. worth a read. I sent it to my kids..one idea is free - see if you can check them out at the college library.. have to do it early but it is an option

  • The professors are not the ones who would lose money in an e-book revolution; it is the publishing companies. The nature of the system that enables professors to make money will not change. Students will still be required to purchase books, and because they are required to purchase them, the professor or the school can charge what they like. The only difference will be that instead of paying $100, $70 of which goes to the publisher and $30 to the writer, you can pay $50 and have $20 goto the ebook provider and it still leaves $20 for the writer.

    I think the author here completely misses how the textbook publishing industry would be crushed by allowing e-books into schools. Yet, it must be the next step. It will save money, save the environment, save a load in the backpack and ultimately increase the quality of work of everyone involved the education industry.

    The fact that the DOJ suggested its against the ADA is so outrageous as to be laughable.

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