Before America was even founded, Benjamin Franklin published the same 3 categories of print material we still have to today. First there is what I call “public domain.” This is stuff that has been around for awhile: The Bible, Plato’s Republic, Isaac Newton’s books on Physics and Mathematics, etc. Next is stuff we have to have, even if do not want it: Textbooks, dictionaries, repair manuals, warning labels, directions, instructions, etc. Though these might be expensive books, the last category is the real money category, stuff we want to read. While a few people might enjoy technical journals, most people read fiction or the news. Since Poor Richard’s Almanac, these were printed in vast quantities that made them highly profitable.
After centuries of enormous success, it is no secret that traditional book publishers are going out of business. While there are many reasons, such as poor marketing strategies, the major reason is competition from e-books. The year 2011 witnessed the sale of e-books surpassing the sale of print books at Amazon. There are many reasons for this, but three stand out. First is availability. A book we had not heard of was highly recommended to my wife and I and within a matter of minutes we had downloaded it onto our Kindle and begun to read it. This is possible to anyone anywhere in the world that has access to the Internet.
Second is security. We have lost or destroyed some very expensive books in our lifetimes. Kindle books are backed up by Amazon. Though it is not an automatic process, it is possible to recover books lost on a damaged Kindle, as we have just learned when our Kindle screen went to Kindle Heaven. Also, many authors find the security of a Kindle superior to the security of paper books. Every year thousands of printed books are stolen. While electronic theft is possible, every purchase is tracked and is traceable. At this time theft of printed books is more common that the theft of Kindle books.
Third is cost. Cost will eventually drive print books into a niche market. They will never disappear completely, but a generation raised on electronic books will fail to understand the mass appeal of print.
Cost is the reason we are developing an e-book curriculum. At this time, a high quality homeschool curriculum in print is at least $750, often over $1000 per student per year. For those who are unable or unwilling to afford these costs, an entire ebook curriculum is much less, about 10% not counting the counting the cost of the ebook reader.