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Frank: Students Are Paying Too Much For Textbooks

Published on May 1, 2015

Frank goes on a mini rant about textbook pricing. Students are paying a small fortune for textbooks because of student loans, government subsidies, and, perhaps, greed.

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By James Fennell on May 01, 2015

Very true Frank, but considering the overall cost of a college education textbooks are still a small component of the total.

The larger problem is saddling students with debt. Instead of purchasing homes, cars and investments, graduates must divert a significant portion of income to servicing student loans that will take many years to pay off.


By John Clifford on May 01, 2015

As someone who was in the textbook production business for many years it's amazing how the prices have gone up. And NONE of the production is being done by the "high priced labor" in the US any more. The company that I worked for used to have about 125 employees doing the QuarkXpress and prepress work on only textbooks. The company was bought out and all the work was sent to India. The same thing happened to an even larger company in York, Pennsylvania which was bought out by the same company. No work being done in the US. But the prices continue to rise despite these "cost-cutting" measures.

I'm with you Frank, I don't get it. Unfortunately, the textbook I'm using to teach prepress to design students is about $78. And the students today don't seem to want to read it.


By Dov Isaacs on May 01, 2015

The solution really lies with the universities and their faculties.

For good reason, university (and college) faculty feel that they need to augment their income and textbook royalties (no matter how poor they are in terms of percentage of book selling prices) provide some incremental income.

The universities could solve the problem very simply in one of several ways:

(1) They could mandate that no course require books costing the student more than n dollars where the n dollars represent a reasonable margin above actual cost of printing and/or electronic distribution.

(2) The universities (either by themselves or as part of a consortium) could self-publish with delivery of the books either electronically (ePub or PDF) or print-on-demand at campus locations. The trick here is for the universities not to simply become a high-cost replacement for the current publishers, using the “profits” to subsidize other university functions such as football teams. In this model, the authors could conceivably do better than with the traditional publishers.

(3) In conjunction with (1) and (2), actually compensate faculty such that the incentive to demand that students use “new” editions on a regular basis is highly diminished.

You'd be surprised how much power state university and college systems could exercise in this area if they wanted to.


By Don Gorges on May 01, 2015

__For those looking for an opportunity to use their critical thinking skills, I'd recommend this recent series of articles by Phil Hill "How Much Do College Students Actually Pay For Textbooks?" - In these 4 articles Phil covers a range of textbook cost/price issues _ http://mfeldstein.com/how-much-do-college-students-actually-pay-for-textbooks/ _ _ http://mfeldstein.com/postscript-on-student-textbook-expenditures-more-details-on-data-sources/ _ mfeldstein.com/about-the-diverging-textbook-prices-and-student-expenditures/ _ http://www.20mm.org/blog/textbook-rentals-biggest-change-student-spending/


By David Avery on May 04, 2015

When I was teaching at RIT ... I put a copy of each textbook on "reserve Reading" at the library ... Students could get it for 4 hours at a time ... They didn't have to buy it if they didn't want to. Of course I was not receiving royalties from the sale.


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