A price comparison for e-books, and their lack of availability

At CampusBooks, we’ve long held that searching all of your options helps you find the best deal. That’s the whole point behind CampusBooks, and it’s why textbook comparison was a big deal for the past few years.

This year, however, is the “season of the e-book,” with Amazon Kindle Rental and apps like the Kno making the digital textbook the new big thing. I’ve talked about it extensively, and we set out to find out just how much it would “change the game.”

What we found was that, first and foremost, that Amazon Kindle Rental may have great prices, but the availability is lacking.  This got me thinking: we’ve long compared traditional textbook prices. Why is no one doing the same for e-books? Are students supposed to manually search each site, take each service’s promise of the best availability and lowest price?

That’s why I’m happy to announce that CampusBooks is now offering an e-book price comparison search. Now students can not only see who is offering their textbooks in digital form, but who has the best prices, too.

That first question, who is offering books, is an important one. We found that Amazon Kindle Rental had only 18 of the top 100 textbooks for back to school. With new access to these databases, we were able to ask: what about the top seven retailers? And the top 1000 textbooks?

We explored CourseSmart, Barnes & Noble, Kno, Textbooks.com, Cengage Brain, Amazon Kindle purchases, and eBooks.com, the seven sites students will be able to search on CampusBooks. The results? Not so good, as Mashable reiterated:

CourseSmart: 82% of the top 1000 books available

Barnes & Noble: 46.6%

Kno: 43.6%

Textbooks.com: 24.2%

Cengage Brain: 23.1%

Amazon Kindle (ebook purchases, not rental): 14.9%

eBooks.com: 0.2%

What’s the lesson here? Like I’ve said before: e-textbooks have a ways to go before they “revolutionize” the industry. These numbers will go up, sure, but for now, students have to continue to search for the best deal across all platforms.

I also thought I would add a bit of commentary on the data, to answer some questions we’ve been faced with.

1) How did you choose your list?  The data is based on the top 1000 books based on demand.  While I agree this is a limited number it should give a general picture of what is happening.

2) Why is CourseSmart so popular with these titles?  That is a great question.  Remember that CourseSmart has always had go penetration with Pearson titles and many of their titles are high demand books.

3) Do you think these numbers would hold true if you looked at more books?  I am not sure.  My guess is that while some numbers would go up, like Kno, other would go down, like CourseSmart.

4) What is your conclusion?  As stated above, the year of eBooks is upon us.  It is still to be determined if students want these books or will buy them.  Do they have the bite to go with the bark!  Students need to take time and research the books they need to see what options they have.  Only an informed student can save big money when it comes to time buying textbooks.

Our next step is to explore price comparisons, similar to the reports we’ve released in the past. It will be interesting to see if availability is tied to price, and if there are any clear leaders in the e-textbook market for both price and availability.

Comments (6)

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Find Cheap College Textbooks - CBS MoneyWatch.com

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  4. Kylie

    Is there more recent data from 2012 with CourseSmart’s standing in regards to percent of most popular textbooks in the digital library?

    Reply
    1. TextbookGuru (Post author)

      I will see if they can provide me any data.

      Jeff

      Reply
  5. Pingback: The Textbook Guru | Comparing Prices for the Top Used, New and e-book Retailers

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