The cost of free textbooks vs. purchased

After talking about textbooks, commenter Kevin posed the question: which would cost more, printing out a free book or reusing a purchased textbook. Great question. How about some quick estimation (some of this stuff I have no clue about). First, how much do high school textbooks cost? Probably the most popular is Glencoe Physics: Principles and Problems. Amazon lists this for $95.55 (which I will call "about a hundred dollars"). How much do schools pay for this? I have no clue. I imagine if a whole state adopts it, they can get some deal. Maybe they could get it for $50 a copy.

How long does a school use a text before having to replace it? Again, I am just going to guess. 5 years? Is that reasonable? This would make the book cost $10 a year per student.

What about a free book? CK-12 has the flexbook. This allows users to freely combine different free material to make their own custom textbook. They don't print it out for you. However, I was talking to some physics teacher at the AAPT meeting (I don't know his name and he didn't have a name tag). He said that if he puts in an order at Kinkos, he can get his book for about $10 a piece. That would put it at the same price per year per student as the purchased book. Even if they cost the same, I would tend towards the book that:

  • Contains what you want and the content you (the teacher) choose.
  • The student gets to keep.

This teacher guy also said that some other private schools just give the student the electronic file and they can do with it as they choose. So, I am not sure if I answered the question very well. My best answer seems to be "at the worst, the same price".

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At our school, I think we pay about $100/book. It varies by book and subject. We try to keep them in use a reasonable time...6 to 10 years, maybe?