Posted by: crudbasher | February 27, 2012

Cost Analysis Of Apple’s eTextbooks

I love the Internet. Apple puts out all this spin and marketing about how eTextbooks are so much cheaper than paper textbooks. Then a single person with some common sense and a calculator comes along and blows it out of the water. 🙂

Apple’s system requires the following:

  1. School wifi network
  2. Every student needs an iPad + support
  3. Each student needs an eTextbook each year.
  4. Teachers need training on how to teach with a classroom of iPads.

Here’s the key quote from the article:

All the sweet promises Apple is making are going to slam headfirst into the funding issue. It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books.

I tend to agree with the math. It all goes back to one fact. Apple is a hardware company. They are trying to sell hardware and make a profit. I don’t have a problem with this mind you. I hope they are trying to make a profit. Even so, I have seen many people in education who seem to think that Apple is all pure and holy. They aren’t. It would pay to be more skeptical about their claims.

This cost equation changes radically though once every student has a smartphone. In fact, the math will then favor the eTextbook. I see this as just a matter of time.

Check out the original posting linked below for some charts and tables, it’s really good work!

  • Doing the math on eTextbooks

    tags: education technology iPad etextbook

    • there is a worm in this apple. All the sweet promises Apple is making are going to slam headfirst into the funding issue. It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books.
    • CONTENT – Advantage Print
    • When a school buys a $60 textbook today they use it for an average of 5-7 years for a per student cost of about $10. When a school buys an Apple iText it costs them $14.99 per student – per year.
    • Right out the gate using a true annualized cost Apple’s claims fall apart.
    • MANAGEMENT – Advantage Digital
    • In both cases there is some management involved in getting the right materials to the right student. We’ll call it $2 a year for a textbook – districts have to catalog it, repair it, and store it somewhere over the summer. On the digital side I used $0.25 for getting the right download code to the right student
    • DEVICE – Advantage Print
    • Apple’s price comparison completely ignored the fact that consuming the digital content requires an iPad that the district is obligated to provide. In private schools and Universities the institution can mandate that students bring their own device (BYOD).
    • I used current pricing from Apple for the low end Wi-Fi only iPad, AppleCare service contract, and an insurance policy from a third party provider (damage, theft, etc.). The annual cost per device is $206, or $163,300 per year for the average high school. Assuming 5 courses this comes out to $43.44 per class per student.
    • NETWORK – Advantage Print
    • Putting an additional 750 devices on a wireless network isn’t a trivial exercise.
    • A cheap $50 wireless access point from Best Buy isn’t going to hack it in this environment. Schools will need industrial grade access points with load balancing and several other features to handle the spiky volume. These typically run in the $500 range. A school will need about 30 of these to support 800 users (don’t forget the teachers).
    • In addition to the access points an additional 4-5 T1 lines will be needed to handle the network volume. I’ve assumed 4 lines at an eRate cost of $400 a month/line. This is an informed guess on the bandwidth needs.
    • TRAINING – Advantage Print
    • Teacher training is a bit complicated, but it bakes down into up-front training and annual tune-ups.
    • I peg the amortized cost of teacher training for a textbook at $1.88 per student per class and the digital text at $6.94. Most of the difference is attributable to the annual updates.
    • But the mass of the market won’t move until there is clear evidence of efficacy and the budget situation for schools improves.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. Why do you have to use Apples eBooks. I had a good experience with here you can rent ebooks and some even have the option to rent chapters. great for dissertation students. They also have a good question and answer section for university students with a great response time. At the moment they are doing a £200 give a way for the best academic question asked on the website.

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