By now you have probably heard that Apple is trying to change the way students learn by reinventing the textbook. And the company's attempt looks very promising indeed judging by our impression from iBooks 2. The interactive textbooks that will be sold through it deliver a rich, engaging experience despite their relatively low price of $15 apiece.
But have you wondered why publishers are willing to sell their textbooks at such a low price while a traditional one costs about $75? Well, the answer to that question is pretty simple actually. Here is how Terry McGraw, CEO of McGraw-Hill, explains the pricing scheme: public schools purchase the textbooks at $75 each and keep them for 5 years on average. That brings a revenue of $15 per year for each textbook sold. However, textbooks sold through Apple's iBooks 2 will be sold directly to students. Regardless of whether the student pays for it out of their own pocket or use a voucher provided by the school, the textbook cannot be resold or given away to another student.
So technically, the publisher will be making that same $15 per book yearly revenue as with physical textbooks. Of course, a fraction of that money will go to Apple, but the publishers should be able to make that difference up by saving on printing costs and shipping. Having all that in mind, the $15 per textbook price is most likely to remain unchanged even though it was referred to as “pilot pricing” at yesterday's iBooks 2 announcement. Or at least when it comes to high school books as McGraw-Hill, like other publishers, has not announced whether it will distribute college textbooks through the iBooks 2 platform.