Print Textbooks Still More Economical Than E-Books

Kent Anderson over at the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s “The Scholarly Kitchen” blog wrote an interesting post today about students’ use of print textbooks versus e-books.

The post highlights a press release by the National Association of College Stores that said that 74% of students prefer print textbooks over e-books, and that the death of the print textbook has been “highly exaggerated.”

Anderson responds that the National Association of College Stores’ survey doesn’t actually show a preference of one format over another, but instead presents a simple economics problem. Whether or not students find e-books easier to use than print textbooks, the high prices of both print textbooks and e-books, along with the ability to resell used print textbooks, make print textbooks the obvious economical choice. Anderson provides an example:

Would I buy a $52 e-book when I can buy a $115 print book that has, as its low offer, a used price of $84? With print, I can essentially “rent” a textbook for a semester for $31, an economic edge of $21 over the e-book — and with no upfront cost of an e-reader.

Anderson makes a great point. Most students view textbooks as a necessary evil and look for the most affordable option. Many times, textbooks aren’t even important for success in a class, and simply reviewing class Powerpoint slides online is a more than sufficient study method.

The only flaw with purchasing a print textbook with the intention to resell is that increasingly more authors are putting out new versions of print textbooks every year, rendering older versions obsolete for class use. If students sense that this behavior becomes more commonplace, or if publishers include more useful tools with e-books, we may see a shift to e-books from print textbooks. For now, I’m sticking with used print textbooks.

Avoiding the Freshman 15? Put Down the Plastic

Paying with cash instead of credit could mean a smaller waistline, says a report released earlier this month by three New York-based economists in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Manoj Thomas (Cornell University), Kalpesh Kaushik Desai (SUNY Binghamton), and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan (SUNY Buffalo) conducted four independent experiments that found a positive correlation between credit card use and impulsive food buying habits. The study, titled “How Credit Card Payments Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases: Visceral Regulation of Vices,” says that the reduced “pain of payment” associated with paying with credit can increase impusive and unhealthy choices at the checkout counter.

“Consumers experience less pain when they use less vivid and emotionally more inert modes of payment [like credit cards] and succumb to their impulsive urges,” the authors say. “Some consumers might be able to curb their impulsive urges by paying in cash.”

But will college students forgo simpler transactions and credit card rewards to avoid putting on the pounds? A study released in August by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston says that because of merchant fees and credit card rewards, the average cash-using household implicitly pays $149 to card-using households every year. Plus, credit cards appeal to busy, technology-savvy students.

What do you think? Will you leave your credit card at home to keep the Ben & Jerry’s out of your shopping cart?