Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shreema Mehta: Students Seek Alternatives as Textbook Prices Mount

(To my fellow professors, try to minimize the cost for your students. I'm often stunned by the disregard, or straight out ignorance, some professors have about the costs of their assigned textbooks. While you are at it, teach your students how to find used textbooks.)

Students Seek Alternatives as Textbook Prices Mount
By Shreema Mehta
Originally published by The New Standard; reposted on AlterNet

A recent study finds that the college textbook industry is driving up costs and restricting cheaper options and suggests alternatives students can use to save money.

The report, released by the members of the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs), a network of campus-based advocacy groups, said textbook companies are taking advantage of a skewed market in which students are forced to buy books assigned by professors.

Students spend an average of about $900 on textbooks every year, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO also found the price for books had tripled between 1986 and 2004, growing at twice the rate of inflation.

The Student PIRGs point out that "the party that orders textbooks -- faculty -- is not the same party that must purchase textbooks -- students -- removing price as a primary consideration in the ordering process." The group also notes that students have no way to "exert their own market power" by finding competitors with lower prices.

The Student PIRGs also criticized publishers for frequently releasing new editions -- often without adding significant educational value -- and thereby squelching a used-book market. Companies also add CD-ROMs and other supplementary "bells and whistles" that drive up costs.

To Read the Rest of the Article

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Professors should step up to counter the rising costs of textbooks. One reason they don't is that some professors assign textbooks that they themselves have written. Fighting the rising costs would fight one of their revenue streams.

Many students have taken action in their own hands by aiding in the used textbook market. There are many websites dedicated to students for the purpose of trading textbooks, like or

These websites are only useful if the professor does not change the edition of the textbook though. The only people who can step in to really inact change is the government. Legislation must be passed or the textbook publishers will have no reason not to continue to raise prices.