Movies, TV Shows, Songs, and Textbooks

Re-blogged from David Wiley’s, iterating toward openness blog

You can stream just about any kind of content on demand now. Rather than purchasing a single DVD or CD, companies like Netflix and Spotify have popularized a business model where customers pay a monthly fee and get on-demand access to a huge library of content.

Now, everyone knows that the college textbook market is horrifically broken. But just how “there’s no way that can possibly be true” broken is it? Here’s a quick comparison between major media types that shows how INSANELY EXPENSIVE textbooks are.

Movies and TV Shows

Amazon Prime – $6.59/month ($79/year) for access to 10,000 movies and TV shows
Netflix – $7.99/month for access to 20,000 movies and TV shows
Hulu Plus – $7.99/month for access to 45,000 movies and TV shows


Spotify – $9.99/month for access to 15 million songs
Rhapsody – $14.99/month for access to 14 million songs


CourseSmart (“world’s largest provider of digital course materials,” sells digital access to other publishers’ textbooks)
– $20.25/month ($121.49/180 days) for access to one biology textbook
– $18.25/month ($109.49/180 days) for access to one world history textbook
– $18.49/month ($110.99/180 days) for access to one algebra book

Online, on demand access to one textbook (~$19/month) costs more than online, on demand access to every major movie, TV show, and song produced in the US in recent memory ($7.99 + $9.99 = $17.98/month). Really. One textbook costs more than the entire output of the film, television, and music industries combined.

Go on… read that previous paragraph again. The math is correct, but it’s not right. Not in any moral sense of the word “right,” anyway.


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