Why universities should hate Apple’s iPad: College bookstore killer?

invisibleSHIELD case for iPad“If students embrace textbooks on the iPad, college bookstores may lose their shirts,” John Patrick Pullen reports for Fortune.

“It may be the season for graduation parties and commencement speeches, but colleges and universities are already prepping for next year, even in the bookstore,” Pullen reports. “Next fall, during opening weekend, students will once again file into university bookstores to purchase course materials, school supplies, and a college sweatshirt or two.”

“While the university licensed gear may seem like a throw-in, it’s big business for colleges and their coffers,” Pullen reports. “But as the higher education industry plans for a future involving digital content delivery to devices like Apple’s iPad, these college-branded impulse purchases – and perhaps even college bookstores – may quickly become a thing of the past.”

Pullen reports, “Should students demand content on the iPad, bookstores will be locked out. Apple’s current App Store and iBookstore sales models give publishers the lion’s share of a 70-30 revenue split, and cut out the schools entirely. Meanwhile, in bookstores’ current distribution model, colleges pocket, on average, 33% of the price of a new book.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Change is the one constant. Universities should be working with Apple to stock iPads – along with Macs, iPhones, and iPods – in their campus bookstores.


  1. I’m working on a second masters and currently, I’ve found two of the four textbooks available for the ipad… through the kindle app. Not the iBook store.

  2. This really shows that the writer sees huge sales for the iPads at universities.

    Based on many of these recent “Concern” articles re: flash, iAds and now universities…it seems a lot of these folks see the iPad as being immensely influential and successful in the coming months/years.

    Very interesting take from these people.

  3. I tried to get books for my son for summer semester on his ipad but the cost was still way too high for electronic versions. Used texts are still much cheaper. Until the prices get better that will be an issue.

  4. The idea is to enable the cost of the book to the student to be reduced as several layers of distribution and retail costs are eliminated. If the College bookstore was getting 33% of the cost a book, then students should be demanding that their iPad e books cost at least 1/3 less than the printed book.

  5. Putting college text books onto iPads was my very first thought when this thing was introduced, the iBook app introduced and the price point set. Honestly it’s brilliant and the college kids could save a fortune in text book costs. Here’s how I see it working:

    Schools: wrap a portion of the cost of the iPad into tuition. Every student gets an iPad as part of enrollment. Students then have the option of (a) purchasing their texts from the iBook store or (b) RENTING their texts from the iBook store. Renting comes in various durations to accommodate the length of semesters or trimesters. Either way, the cost of textbooks on the iPad comes at a fraction of the cost of the bookstore texts.

    Cost-wise everyone wins. The students pay less, publishers can charge less for the same profit because of the low overhead.

    What needs to happen with the iBook app though is the capability to take notes in the margin or elsewhere in the book. Highlighting is fun and I’m glad it’s there but without the capability to take notes it won’t fly as a replacement for texts.

  6. I teach graduate students in the California State University system. As I develop syllabi for the courses I teach, I am really sensitive to the costs for texts. Each academic quarter, students may pay hundreds of dollars for each course.

    Now, the publishing companies, in hopes that we will adopt their texts and require our students to purchase them, provide us (faculty) with courtesy copies. This has been very useful, and quite frankly does play a role in determining which texts will ultimately be adopted for courses.

    That said, I have a Kindle and my iPad 3G is on order. I attempted to get texts for the current courses I’m teaching on my Kindle. I noted a couple things. First, there are a limited number of texts used in my discipline (public administration) available in the e-format. And the few that are available aren’t significantly less expensive than the print copies. Second, the publishers haven’t developed the mechanism yet for providing desk copies (courtesy copies) to faculty in e-format. I think once they start doing that, faculty members will begin pushing the e-format to their students.

    Will the brick and mortar university bookstores like this? Well, many of them are actually contracted out these days. These are for-profit entities that will not relinquish their revenue source easily. For me, however, I will gladly use and urge my students to use the e-versions if the publishers would make them available.

  7. The universities have complete control over getting a share of the action. They ultimately select or don’t select a textbook for use. No cut, no selection. Seems pretty straightforward.

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