The new era of the $400 college textbook

4,025 Views | 33 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by Eliminatus
Azure
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AG
https://www.aei.org/publication/the-new-era-of-the-400-college-textbook-which-is-part-of-the-unsustainable-higher-education-bubble/



A new milestone must have been established recently we're now officially in a new era of the $400 new college textbook and the $300 used college textbook, see graphic above showing the top 15 most expensive textbooks at the University of Michigan-Flint based on a new unpublished report by Matthew Wolverton, an electronic resource management librarian at the Thompson Library (UM-Flint's library)



For business students taking five classes per semester and paying an average of $250 per textbook, their textbook bill would be $2,500 per year and $10,000 over four years! Of course, those students would be taking courses in non-business disciplines where the average textbook price is lower, but even at an average price of $200 per new textbook, students could be facing costs as high as $8,000 over four years.

And just in case the rise in college textbook prices could be blamed on the increasing costs of publishing books in general, the chart below clearly shows that that's not the case the CPI for recreational books has been falling relative to the overall CPI since 1998, while the CPI for college textbooks has risen 3.5 times more than the overall CPI.

crag
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Starving professors.
MSCAg
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At least those books are all contain information that will help a person get a decent job later on.

If you see someone charging a student $400 for an Art History book, they should be shot.
bmks270
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Textbooks today are a racket and scam.

One of my college professors wrote his own textbook for his class and sold it for $50 and it is a double win because it's super cheap relative to traditional text books, it has exactly the material he wants to teach and integrates with his lectures and he makes a little money from the sale.

I read a story a guy was importing textbooks from Taiwan or something and selling them here way cheaper and he got shutdown by the publishers.

A friend of mine bought the Indian version of all his textbooks, se exact book, like 1/3 of the price.

And at least in engineering, they release new editions every few years it's the same damn material. My older Co worker has engineering textbooks released in the 60s that are better than today's books.

bmks270
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If you buy used and re-sell it at the end of the semester it's not the bad however.
MidnightMugdown
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quote:
If you buy used and re-sell it at the end of the semester it's not the bad however.

I actually made a small profit doing this the past semester
Ulrich
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Still a lot of money for a college student to have tied up in books. Not much reason for a $400 book, IMO. I suspect this can only happen in a market where the seller gets to tell the buyer which book he is required to purchase.
bmks270
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quote:
quote:
If you buy used and re-sell it at the end of the semester it's not the bad however.

I actually made a small profit doing this the past semester


This works when the course doesn't switch to a new edition, or when the book is not worth keeping.
commando2004
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One factor driving up costs is the publishers' insistence on publishing new editions every few years. And not always because there's new material, but because they rearrange the chapters for no good reason.

eric76
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Don't some people plan ahead and buy their textbooks on the Internet at deep discounts?
eric76
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My last course at A&M, I already had two of the three textbooks before even signing up for the course.
Champ Bailey
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Just download your textbooks through torrent. If professors are going to scam the public, scam them.

geoag58
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The rent in the ivory tower must be high
Ulrich
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Tricks of the trade:
1. Wait until the class starts, find out which books you REALLY need, and buy them on Amazon. Resell for approximately what you paid.
2. Buy foreign versions.
3. Share with fellow students.
4. Get a job at a textbook store and study during those long, boring mid-semester shifts. The book never has to leave the store.
5. Sometimes Evans (or other libraries on campus) has copies you can borrow.


There are probably more that I've forgotten, but in the long run you can get out of sinking much money in textbooks with those.
AnimalA10
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Would also suggest half.com. I worked at an off-campus bookstore at my new school where I live now and the best tips I can give are:

1. Half.com
2. Buy & sell online if possible, and off-campus if in person
3. Sell online, but if you must sell in-person, sell at an off-campus location and only sell one book at a time.
4. If you know you have one of these really expensive books (where book wholesalers make their biggest profit), wait until the middle of the week. They will want it and be willing to shell out a little more.
5. If you have the chutzpah to haggle, do it. At my store our scanners were set to return 50% of book worth on resale. We were then taught to stack multiple books together and give the overall price, taking even more off of the total of half the books' worth. Whatever we could get away with was our personal profit.
FriscoKid
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Free markets!

Dumbass gets to publish whatever he wants. (And force someone to spend loan money to buy it) Who the hell cares that the book was put together by undocumented workers? Suck it up buttercup and buy the book.
dfphotos
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This **** has been going on for a long time. I remember not buying books my last full academic year. 24 hours of courses, 0 textbooks. It was great.
MSCAg
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quote:
Would also suggest half.com. I worked at an off-campus bookstore at my new school where I live now and the best tips I can give are:

1. Half.com
2. Buy & sell online if possible, and off-campus if in person
3. Sell online, but if you must sell in-person, sell at an off-campus location and only sell one book at a time.
4. If you know you have one of these really expensive books (where book wholesalers make their biggest profit), wait until the middle of the week. They will want it and be willing to shell out a little more.
5. If you have the chutzpah to haggle, do it. At my store our scanners were set to return 50% of book worth on resale. We were then taught to stack multiple books together and give the overall price, taking even more off of the total of half the books' worth. Whatever we could get away with was our personal profit.

Be one of the first to sell back. Stores make projects about class sizes. Once they buy back a certain number of books, its considered not needed and basically start only offering wholesale prices.
Lance Uppercut
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The new trick is to rent from Amazon. That microeconomics book is renting for 38 dollars and the corporate finance one for 85 (20 if you just rent the previous edition).

During Round 2, I was surprised at how many more professors were aware of the financial burden of textbooks. I don't remember a single one demanding the newest edition, meaning you saved a bundle. Like above, they actually seemed to encourage finding an older edition and going from 300 to 20 dollars (of course, none of them were peddling books they wrote themselves). I don't think I spent $100 dollars on books in those three semesters, and in my last one, zero. This was in part because A&M carries the old editions of the textbooks too, and it was not surprising to find the wrinkled 1980s edition contained a vast majority of the same information.

When I was in undergrad, the best trick if possible was to bring the book to a class that was using it the following semester. By going straight to them, you got a much better price than you were going to find anywhere else and they did as well. The book store offer was a joke in comparison.

The biggest way I've seen textbooks fire back is through their online content. I did one semester in community college before going back to school, and I was surprised at how dirt cheap tuition and fees were in comparison to A&M. But all the classes relied on Pearson products, and their bookstore was filled top to bottom with their stuff. They must have had a contract. The book itself was often even loose paper, but the majority of the cost came from the online code (which could be bought separately for like 80% of what the book and code together cost). There was practically no resale market, and the professors could put it on cruise control in terms of homework, quizzes, and study materials because they were packaged by Pearson and graded by their system. You ended up paying more for books than for going to school, which was made more sickening by seeing how many more people ended up in the financial aid line at the bookstore because the BOOKS were what made going to school unaffordable. Worst of all, the online quizzes were often poorly made.
Javelina
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I still reference my copy of Skoog's Instrumental Analysis and it's been over a decade since I sat in that class. Money well spent in my case.
jopatura
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I had a professor in college who wrote his own book. He would update that **** every year and specifically test off the new material in the book. So if you didn't buy his book brand new or have enough of a study buddy willing to share, you were screwed. At the time it was a $120 book. I have never looked at it again. It was a 300+ person class and required for my degree. That ******* laughed all the way to the bank every year.
agracer
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quote:
If you buy used and re-sell it at the end of the semester it's not the bad however.
except when the prof required the new version....
gkaggie08
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I was lucky enough that most of my major professors had us go to
Copy corner to get our text books. Cost around $15/book. I did have accounting with stausser I think and used a text book from the previous semester. My book was a 6th edition, class required a 7th edition. Only difference was 2 or 3 chapters were rearranged
blindey
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Towards the end of law school, several professors were pretty much revolting against the textbook market. They would send an email instructing the class to get the previous edition from amazon (usually $2-5+ shipping) instead of the new edition (asking price ~$120-150). The law bookstore and the publication reps were apparently furious when they realized what was going on.
adjointfunctor
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There are online databases of millions of pdf + djvu format textbooks for free. Everything you could ever use/want and more.
Ulrich
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One thing the publishers have been doing though is putting codes in the books to access online material. Usually you can buy the code separately for $25-$50, or at least that's how it was back in my day, but part of the reason for the e-books and online content is to enable them to charge every student for new book margins.
ro828
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Contemporary Marketing $298.35? Unless that price includes a small flat screen TV so you can relax after you study, I'd hate to see the day when those publishers ultimately answer to God.

I took the course in the summer of 1972 at A&M and the textbook, a used paperback, was around $10. I know you have to adjust prices for inflation, but really? Those prices are a sin. And I'll bet the vast majority are self published by a vanity press and written by the professor teaching the class.
EastSideAg2002
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Books have always been one of the bigger financial burdens due to their cost. As one poster said, these books tend to have a greater value due to their information. However, the new scams for a new book every semester with online codes is the biggest scam.
Little Rock Ag
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It's easy enough to figure out the cause of that - the inflationary effect of Pell Grants and loans.
biobioprof
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The caption of a similar figure from the Economist is perfect
SapperAg
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The vast majority aren't vanity presses and they aren't written by the profs teaching the classes. That does happen, but it's less common than folks are trying to argue. A school like A&M may have a few cases of that because it's a major university with important names in their fields.

Textbook costs have jumped in part because online book sellers have ravaged publishing houses and their traditional model. Textbooks are one of the few big moneymakers and one of the few reliable markets. But they're facing big pushback from students and professors. Believe it or not, most professors don't make a killing and they understand the hardships imposed by textbook costs.

I assign my undergrads in an American survey course two general histories that together cover the time period (about $15 a piece new) and one primary source like Frederick Douglass that can be found very cheap or even free.
aggiebrad94
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quote:
A friend of mine bought the Indian version of all his textbooks, se exact book, like 1/3 of the price.
They're called Native Americans, duh!
AggieChemist
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I'm old enough that my copy of Skoog West and Holler's "Principles of Instrumental Analysis" cost only $115 new.
Eliminatus
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quote:
The new trick is to rent from Amazon. That microeconomics book is renting for 38 dollars and the corporate finance one for 85 (20 if you just rent the previous edition).

I did this this past semester and I must say....I will NEVER buy another textbook again. Unless I can see using it as a reference later in life(which I can't), renting is the way to go. I did the ebook thing for a semester....didn't like it. I prefer the feel of a book. So I rented and it was awesome. Paid about a third of the price, had them shipped to me, kept the boxes, used them, got the included shipping labels at the end of the semester and shipped them right back in the same boxes.

It was so painfree and convenient I almost cried.
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