Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?

why textbooks are expensive

Judging from the results of a research conducted by the American Enterprise Institute a few years ago, the prices of textbooks have increased more than eightfold since 1978, and are continuing to rise. This phenomenon is incompatible with the general growth of goods and services sector. The prices have doubled only in the past ten years, so what are the reasons for this hike and what awaits us in the future?

Spread of secondhand books

The leading cause of prices soaring to unprecedented heights could be the development of an enormous market for used textbooks. Previously, the choice of a student was defined by a few particular bookstores associated with the college, and the possibility to find a cheaper option with such a limited number of sellers was really small. Now, with the emergence of internet, Amazon website, and countless other sources giving the students the opportunity to buy the best option even from the other end of the country, this market has become inflated.

Why textbooks are expensive. First
Why textbooks are expensive. Second
Why textbooks are expensive. Third

Publishers’ strategy

In order to achieve profits in times when fewer and fewer students are opting for new books, the publishers have used through years the tactics of creating newer editions of particularly highly demanded textbooks with only a few design-related changes, and persuading the professors to use them during the classes. Other methods of achieving sales include creating “special editions” for the universities not stating the name of the author, making it impossible to look for an alternative, and using access codes fit for use only once and per one person.

Problem with professors

The issue with college programs made by professors is that they mostly do not pay attention to the book prices, or this information is concealed from them on purpose. The solution to this problem could be the professors paying more attention to the contents of the textbooks and suggesting their students more affordable versions.

The big players

The textbook market is populated by both big and small companies, but the largest ones may hold the power in the terms of price setting. McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Cengage (which include dozens of smaller publishing houses) are responsible for more than 4/5 of sales of the whole sector. This situation lets them operate on the market at their own will and make the level of the prices really high. Without a shadow of doubt, the ones suffering the most from this dilemma are students.

Read our Tips for College Freshmen for further advice and find out the reasons to buy used textbooks. You can also create buyback orders using a barcode scanner for Android and iOS.

Updated on September 21st, 2016