Have you bought any textbooks recently? K-12 book prices are outlandish; college textbooks border on criminal and publishers are moving slower than molasses in January when it comes to moving towards any sort of electronic publishing model. I know, let's cut down countless trees, print on them with toxic inks, and gouge the heck out of students when we could drastically cut costs and environmental impact by publishing books electronically! Good call.
The New York Times is featuring an article on students' increasing willingness to simply scan and post the books on sites like the Pirate Bay. As the article notes,
All forms of print publishing must contend with the digital transition, but college textbook publishing has a particularly nasty problem on its hands. College students may be the angriest group of captive customers to be found anywhere.
"Captive customers" is a key phrase here. Whether K-12 or university, we have to use textbooks. I can't send home a syllabus with my students saying, "Sorry, no geometry book this year, the publishing industry sucks." In the same way, I'd rather that my son's cardiologist didn't just look up thoracic anatomy on Wikipedia.
However, if students aren't willing to spend $15 for a CD from their favorite artist, they certainly aren't going to continue spending $200 on books they really don't want to read. Have you ever read a macroeconomics text book? They tend to be a bit dry.
Whether they are selling electronic versions of the books or providing subscription services, textbook publishers need to get a clue. As students are increasingly willing to spend a week scanning a 1500-page textbook just to stick it to the man and share the textbook love with their fellow students, the old model of selling bound books needs to go by the wayside. Just ask the average college student: "When was the last time you bought a CD?"