This year my youngest daughter will move from middle to high school. As with any new cycle, her schoolbooks will completely change, and this prompts some thinking about the role of textbooks, not to mention some outrage to our wallets.

Luckily there are several organizations – the foremost one is called “Il Libraccio” – that will buy your used textbooks, provided they’re still current and in good conditions, at 60% off cover price, and will sell you the ones you need at 40% off. Of course, they have a stock management system that will tell them how many copies of a certain title they should carry, enabling them to pay cash, but this system looks up the stock only of the individual store (they have about 10 in the Milan area) so you must go from store to store, until you sell what you can, typically all but a few.

My ISOC suggestion of today is for the owners of Il Libraccio: why don’t you make available the front end of your stock management system as a self service on your website? I scan my own books, determine the ones that aren’t sellable, and see that I can sell book “A” and “C” in store “1”, book “D” and “E” in store “2” etc. The system records provisionally the books as “in transit” updating the store’s stock, and when they are physically delivered and inspected, say within 48 hours, the price is paid.

At least I would not have to lug about 50 kilos of books from one store to another, with the possibility of having to throw them all away because there’s too many around already.

Notice how carefully I avoid underlining that all of this nineteen-century trafficking is only due to the teachers’ reluctance to adopt ebooks

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