Textbook Costs are Rising

February 3, 2012

Among the things that students have to pay for, textbooks are the most expensive beside tuition. It's not a surprise that the average cost of a Chemistry textbook to be $50 or more. Studies conducted in 2004 and 2005 by the State Public Interest Research Group show that the average student textbooks in total come to about $900 per year. That's an estimated 17.5 percent of tuition and fees for a four-year public college, and 43 percent of the tuition and fees at a junior college. Most students do use grants to help cover the costs, more are turning towards loans in order to pay off their student bills

The cost of textbooks has rapidly increased over the past decade. Many publishers often just put out a new edition that make used textbooks less to come by and drive the prices further upward. A higher edition typically will cost about 12 percent more than the previously released edition, equating to 45 percent more of the cost for a used textbook.

Textbooks will often get bundled with things like DVDs, dictionaries or other accessories that are meant to increase the price even further, if they are included "free" or not even necessary for the student to learn. These extra materials add about a 10 percent cost to the item. The bundled books are still necessary however, because they rarely can come separately from the accessories.

What's even more shocking is the comparison to European students. American publishers charge students more for textbooks than in Europe. The average textbook in America costs 20 percent more than a book in Europe. Some publishers even charge as much as 72 percent more to American students for books. So how does this happen? Is there any way to stop the price inflation?

The problem with American textbook industry is underlined by the difference in price between America and Europe publishers. There is a runaway market in America that publishers are taking advantage of. Students need textbooks and can only buy the right textbook for a class, so it allows the prices to go up extremely high. The prices are also controlled by economic forces and competition. However, there is a limit to what customers will pay for, even a student who needs a book. Many students are finding alternative solutions such as a book rental program or buying books online for much cheaper prices.

Congress has acted upon the problems in the textbook industry in order to rectify the problem. The Giher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 included a textbook affordability clause that went into effect in july 2010. Key provisions required that textbook publishers disclose prices to professors so that they could make conscious decisions and also make bundled books available separately from accessories. There are also restrictions for colleges to provide a list of required and recommended texts for each course in the catalog.

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