Indonesia | Economics

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Make textbooks free. Advertise

Textbooks are expensive. Here is an idea to push the prices of textbooks down: Open up those pages for advertisements.

Textbook prices are soaring into the hundreds of dollars, but in some courses this fall, students won't pay a dime. The catch: Their textbooks will have ads for companies including FedEx Kinko's and Pura Vida coffee.

Generally, the model requires a strong regulatory frameworks. One visitor in the Freakonomics blog (where I first came across the article) is worried of the influence of advertisers on the textbooks' contents. This is a legitimate concern, taking lessons from how much television programs are driven by advertisements in Indonesia.

What this model — whereby textbooks are offered for free, to be paid by advertisers —offers, however, is an interesting way to shift price negotiations away from between schools and publishers, to between publishers and advertisers. As such, school administrators can be somewhat isolated from the temptation of commercialisation. Details would need to be sorted out, though, to minimise negative side effects.

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