January 28, 2013
As most other college students could contest, the beginning of a new semester marks the onset of the online hunt for the cheapest textbooks needed for classes. Along with the rising costs of tuition, meal plans, and transportation, paying $200 for a textbook one will use for 5 months is a little disheartening. From pulishers to online rental services, the textbook business is a well established market. A new startup company called Boundless Learning saw an opportunity, and after a year in beta, recently went live. The company uses “reverse engineering” to deconstruct popular textbooks for college courses, and compiles free material that closely correlates with the information one would pay hundreds of dollars to read in the course. The current challenge Boundless Learning has to work against is that of the publishing companies. The simple fact that the company is bringing to light the high markups of textbooks sold to college students is enough to make the publishers want to go to the courts. Publishers are claiming the new website is stealing the “selection and arrangement of information” from their textbooks. They have already been faced with lawsuits and heavy criticism, but personally, I’m glad they are taking the risk. Being a senior in college, I for one have used nearly every format of a textbook available. My first two years of school, my books were purchased directly from the school with scholarship money. Publishers have contracts with universities across the nation, and definitely enjoy large margins from the students who purchase through the school. As any other student who has to use loans from school could verify, our refund checks are held for the first couple weeks in school so we “can use them in the bookstore on account.” This easy option makes it quite tempting to spend the large difference instead of waiting to spend that same money at home online on sites like Amazon and Chegg. That’s where the...
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