Expensive Textbooks

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Inside Higher Ed has an article this week on a flap between the Student Public Interest Research Group and a textbook publishers' association. PIRG claimed that college students spend an average of $900 annually on textbooks. As the textbook publisher association pointed out, they were misquoting a study that found that students pay an average of $900 annually for textbooks and fees. The textbooks' share of this, the publishers correct, is only $650.

ONLY $650???? Yikes.

Then the finger-pointing ensues. Is it the fault of the professors, who are the ones who choose and require the expensive books? The publishers who set wholesale prices? The bookstores, who regulalry mark up the retail price up to 50% over the sugggested retail price?

And the most important question: is there any alternative?



The Discussion

  • User profile image
    Alfred Thompson

    I think that publishers and bookstores are in line for most of the blame. Professors for the most part are just trying to pick the best books from the point of view of the book being a valuable resource. It may be that campus bookstores are under too much pressure to make a profit. Bookstores should not be seen as a profit center but I think they all too often are seen that way. If they only took a marginal profit to cover overhead prices would be lower. Publishers do have a lot of costs that people don't always see. It is not just printing and material costs but there is book design, editing, and other pre-production costs. Take a look at the list of people involved in the credits at the begining of most test books. It's a longer list than you might suspect. The authors get some money (full disclosure - I've got several published textbooks on the market) but they are paid a percentage of the price the publisher gets and it is not a large percentage. The author has no say in the selling price either so it is not like they are saying "raise the price so I make more money."

  • User profile image
    cheap textbooks

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