The cost of textbooks in higher ed receives a lot of attention. For the record, I have written college textbooks and I have written about the misrepresentation of the cost of such textbooks (most textbooks are resold so the actual cost to the student is typically one-half the cost of a new book). I have taken calling this deception as the “beer money ploy” as college students may not always tell their parents they have sold their textbooks back to the bookstore.
I came across a blogger writing on this same topic and he argues that OER (open educational resource) textbooks may be less costly, but nearly all are simply an online version of a traditional textbook. He argues that innovation will come when commercial providers augment their content with personalized study systems and personalization is what will actually make higher ed cost effective. He takes a broad view and notes that a large proportion of college students do not graduate and innovations that increase this percentage will improve the cost effectiveness of the total process. He has hit on a position I agree with and focused on as a research focus during my professional career. It is only the commercial content providers who have the resources (because of the economy of scale) to provide systems that allow students to progress at their individual rates of understanding.