Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


The Textbook Market: Not a Free or Fair Market

I hate scammers! And the textbook publishing industry has been scamming students for far too long.

Textbook publishers seem to be able to dictate to teachers and college professors what books they have to use and what inflated prices the students have to pay.

This I fault the professors for; they should have stood up long ago to help the students, who are overburdened in the first place. Shame on the educators!…Do you suppose they (or the learning institutions who employ them) are receiving kick-backs from the publishers at the students’ expense?

Zach Ammerman, Opinion Co-Editor for the Indiana Daily Student, wrote this analytical piece:

Textbooks: Held captive by publishers’ prices

College textbooks are expensive.

University students are a captive market for textbooks. At a regular bookstore, if a book is too expensive, it likely won’t be bought. At a college bookstore, however, students are required by their professors to purchase books for their classes regardless of the exorbitant price tag that may be printed on the back of the book.

They either have to dig into their wallets and pay an inflated price for a book that isn’t worth half of what it costs or not buy the book and suffer educationally.

Students don’t have a choice but to be ripped off.

Students need protection from textbook companies taking advantage of them. Unnecessary textbook industry practices are designed precisely to make them pay more than they need to for books that they are required to purchase.

In short, we’re all being scammed.

On average, textbook companies come out with a new edition for every textbook they offer every three years.

Many of these revisions are entirely unnecessary, adding no new information to textbooks in fields like geography or mathematics that have had few or no developments since the last edition.

It is highly doubtful Antarctica has moved too much since the last edition of an atlas came out, and yet atlases are updated about once every three years along with other college educational materials.

With every new edition of a textbook, publishing companies increase the cost of the book by an average of 45 percent over the cost of the older version of the same textbook, even if no new information has been added.

If these revisions were actually adding information from new developments in the fields these textbooks address, these expensive revisions might at least have some benefit.

But more than 75 percent of university faculty surveyed nation-wide in 2004 indicated that they found these revisions unjustified and unnecessary at least half of the time.

Basically, we’re paying more for the same old information in the last book.

Another questionable tactic that publishing companies use to force college students to pay more for their required educational materials is the process of “bundling” expensive extras like DVDs and CDs with their textbooks. More than 50 percent of college textbooks in the United States are “bundled” in this manner.

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  1. Part of the problem might be making the university-run book store a profit center.For what it's worth, students sell the books back at the end of the term if they like. It's not a solution to the comments you raise, but the practice reduces their out-of-pocket costs.Malcolm

    Comment by Sun Singer — 09/02/2010 @ 11:44 am | Reply

  2. Malcolm,You make valid points. But, as you say, it really isn't a solution to the core problem of why the super inflated textbook prices in the first place…Besides, students shouldn't HAVE to sell their books back…they may want to keep them for reference books later. I know I did (at least for awhile until they got too heavy to move around and I started to lose my mind anyway!)

    Comment by John Austin — 09/02/2010 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks for discussing this textbook expense tyranny!

    Comment by Frances Jeanne — 09/03/2010 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

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