Why textbooks cost so much

19 Aug

As the cost of a college education rises, everyone is looking at ways to reduce cost so that more students are not priced out of a college education. Allen Grove has a good article at About.Com which gives some reasons for Why College Books Cost So Much? http://collegeapps.about.com/od/payingforcollege/f/college-books-cost.htm The Economist wrote in the article, Why textbooks cost so much:

STUDENTS can learn a lot about economics when they buy Greg Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics”—even if they don’t read it. Like many popular textbooks, it is horribly expensive: $292.17 on Amazon. Indeed, the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteenfold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation (see chart).
Like doctors prescribing drugs, professors assigning textbooks do not pay for the products themselves, so they have little incentive to pick cheap ones. Some assign books they have written themselves…
But hope is not lost for poor scholars. Foreign editions are easy to find online and often cheaper—sometimes by over 90%. Publishers can be litigious about this, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to buy and resell copyrighted material obtained legally. Many university bookstores now let students rent books and return them. Publishers have begun to offer digital textbooks, which are cheaper but can’t be resold…. http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21612200-its-economics-101-why-textbooks-cost-so-much?fsrc=email_to_a_friend

There are ways to cut down the cost associated with college text books. If possible, one can buy used texts. Another way to cut costs is to rent texts. Rhiana Jones’ article Top Three Online Sites to Rent College Texts At a Discount https://suite.io/rhiana-jones/3v8p2sv compares three text rental sites. Paul Michael has some tips for going online to find discounted texts at How to Find the Cheapest College Textbooks http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-the-cheapest-college-textbooks

The Affordable College Textbook Act has been kicking around Congress for a few years. SPARC summarizes the provisions:

The Affordable College Textbook Act seeks to expand the use of open textbooks on college campuses, providing affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks and keeping prices lower. The bill:
• Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students.
• Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public.
• Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students.
• Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle.
• Requires the Government Accountability Office to provide an updated report on the price trends of college textbooks to Congress by 2017.
Supporters: SPARC, U.S. PIRG, National Association of College Stores, National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, OUR TIME, Creative Commons, OpenCourseWare Consortium. – See more at: http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act#sthash.hdtGL4DP.dpuf http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act

Passage of the act might help many, but its passage is not assured.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy wrote in the Money Watch article, College Textbooks: 7 Ways to Save Money:

Before you shop for college textbooks, here are my seven tips to find the cheapest textbooks around:
1. Comparison shop.
You can use BIGWORDS.com and Campusbooks.com, which are textbook aggregators, that can direct you to college textbook sellers are offering the lowest prices. BIGWORDS, for instance, aggregates all the web’s options on any book, whether new, used or rentals. Two popular places for textbooks are Half.com and Amazon.
2. Use old editions.
You will often be able to pick up some old editions of textbooks super cheap and sometimes for pennies on the dollar. The content in the 5th edition of a chemistry book versus the 7th edition could be inconsequential. Ask your professors if you aren’t sure about buying an old textbook.
3. Consider renting textbooks.
The big gorilla in the textbook rental market is Chegg. Other competitors include BookRenter.com and CampusBookRental.com. ValoreBooks offers free shipping for rentals over $20. Some campus bookstores are also renting textbooks to students.
Renting won’t always be cheaper than buying a used copy — particularly if you can resell the college book, but it can be a godsend if you’re strapped for cash. Check prices.
4. Look for coupons.
Before you buy textbooks online, see if you can find a promotional coupon. Check out CouponWinner.com, PromoCodes.com and PromotionalCodes.com.
5. Share a book.
My daughter, who is a college senior, has done this in the past. She’s shared textbooks with one or two of her friends and saved big bucks.
6. Try international editions of books.
According to Textbooksrus.com, it’s possible to save 75% on international editions of textbooks.
7. Look for books before school starts.
According to a new federal law, textbook publishers must provide students with the list of required textbooks during registration. You’ll have more options if you don’t wait until you arrive at school to order. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/college-textbooks-7-ways-to-save-money/

The cost of textbooks is just one of the costs associated with going to college. See, Tuition is only the beginning of college costs https://drwilda.com/2013/08/15/tuition-is-only-the-beginning-of-college-costs/

Resources:

Students Get Savvier About Textbook Buying
http://chronicle.com/article/Students-Get-Savvier-About/136827/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

For Many Students, Print Is Still King
http://chronicle.com/article/For-Many-Students-Print-Is/136829/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Affordable College Textbook Act Would Help Students, But Publishers Aren’t Hearing It http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2014/03/affordable_college_textbook_ac.php

Related:

Are open-source textbooks becoming a viable alternative to traditional texts?
https://drwilda.com/2012/08/12/are-open-source-textbooks-becoming-a-viable-alternative-to-traditional-texts/

Could ‘open source’ textbooks be cheaper than traditional textbooks?
https://drwilda.com/2012/01/17/could-open-source-textbooks-be-cheaper-than-traditional-textbooks/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

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