12 Nov 2009

The price of textbooks

This [unedited] guest post is by a student in my EEP100 class (background post).
Please praise/critique/comment on its economic quality and importance to you.

Jose Soria says:

Every year most college students dread the beginning of semesters or quarters. With the beginning of school come many expenses. Students not only have to worry about paying rent and tuition, but also about buying all the course materials needed for all of their classes. Unlike David’s class, most classes are not student friendly and require students to buy the latest edition of a particular textbook plus additional books that could be helpful. In most cases the new textbooks that students are required to buy cost hundreds of dollars.

Students should not have to pay hundreds of dollars for the newest edition of a textbook. Textbook publishers justifying the price of the latest edition of a textbook because of miniscule changes, but do not drastically improve the quality and relevance of information in textbooks. If the theory and general concepts of a textbook have not changed, there is no need for a new textbook. And unlike textbooks in high school, textbooks in higher education do not get reused. Students usually buy a textbook, use it for a semester, and sell the textbook back to the student store before the textbook becomes outdated.

With this current economic situation it is ridiculous to think that students can afford to buy the latest edition of textbooks. According to the National Association of College Stores, students across the country spend an average of $400 every term. Over a 4 year span a student may have to pay over $2,000 for books.

The problem is that the textbook industry has many players that are trying to increase their own utility and not the utility of college students. Along with textbook publishers there are bookstores that stand to profit from new textbooks being sold, but the last participants it the textbook industry that can help college students are instructors. But some instructors are persuaded to assign new editions, because most of the time they get the new edition for free.

Bottom Line: Textbooks publishers and bookstores are trying to make as much profit as they can. To combat the power of textbook publishers and bookstores, instructors of higher education should not always assign the latest edition of a textbook and try to find alternatives to textbooks. Students should also take action by not buying books form the bookstore and not selling their books back to student stores. Instead, students should help each other by using websites like comegetused.com and amazon.com that allow students to buy and sell textbooks at an affordable price.


  1. If you haven't heard of it, Chegg, www.chegg.com, is the best textbook rental service on the planet.

  2. I always buy from online source. but the thing is, book publisher need money to survive too. In fact, the science textbook changes quite often as new discovery are found. If no one is going to buy the newest edition, they have no incentive to update the book and we will be using the very old one. Let the rich students support book publisher, and we the poor student be the free rider for getting used book. I don't see much economic analysis in this post though.


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