EC103-Topic #1: Prices of textbooks

This blog asks you to think about how prices are reached and what, if anything can be done with prices. First, take a look at an article from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune that discusses textbook prices for college students. For many college students, prices are not achieved through individual bargaining, as instructors often choose a textbook based on content rather than price. A 2004 Washington Post article on textbook prices gives some more explanation as to why textbook prices have risen so steadily in recent years. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied textbook pricing in 2005 and the federal government is considering action on the matter as recently as last year. Many of the proposed government solutions have considerable unintended consequences, such as limiting the amount that a campus bookstore can markup the wholesale price of a textbook.

Questions you might try to answer:

• What are the unintended consequences of some of the legislation proposed to control textbook prices?
• Do you believe that there is a significant reason justifying the increase in textbook costs?
• Would you prefer ‘a la carte’ textbook pricing, where you pay a set amount for a textbook, and an additional amount for any ancillaries?
• What do you believe is the impact of secondhand or off site textbook dealers on the market for textbooks?

I would like your statements to be as subjective as possible, or in jargon terms, positive and not normative in nature. Also, remember, I want you to keep your descriptions short, basic, and related to classroom content. Read other students comments before posting, and please leave your name with your posting.

22 thoughts on “EC103-Topic #1: Prices of textbooks”

  1. There are certainly significant reasons explaining the rise in textbook prices, but they are by no means justifications. The rise seems predominately the result of rampant revision and excessive bundling (G.A.O.). However, other factors include “agreements between bookstores and universities” (Rucker) and possibly either professorial neglect or the circuitousness of commissioned sales representatives (Pressler). Defense for new editions is ubiquitous but lacks variety. Publishers argue that textbooks must “remain current” (Ross) in order to “win schools’ support” by “including newer teaching techniques and more modern information or interpretations” (Pressler). Despite an argument by J. Hildebrand for the revision of even history books, one might question the altruism of those profiting from this rise, especially in contrast with a statement from the California Student Public Interest Research Group stating that the “average release time between textbook editions is 3.8 years, regardless of whether the information has changed since the previous version” (Pressler). Bundling, apparently, is a result of professorial desire for more learning tools. However, adding these tools and raising the price without informing professors about any extra cost, as Margaret Pressler suggests, seems like unethical business (Pressler). Finally, in regard to “agreements between bookstores and universities” (Rucker), Patricia Cossard’s reply that the funds ultimately help students lacks legitimacy when fewer services would be needed, or at least less money could be allocated to them, in the event that students did not have to pay several hundred dollars for books. Government Accountability Office. “College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases.” GAO-05-806 July 29, 2005 < http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-806&gt; Pressler, Margaret Webb. “Textbook Prices On the Rise: Frequent New Editions, Supplemental Materials Drive Up Costs,” September 18, 2004; Page E01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html>Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html>Rucker, Philip. “Lawmakers Study Ways To Cut Cost Of Textbooks: Prices Are Called ‘Burden on Students,’” January 30, 2008; Page B01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2008/01/29/AR2008012903043.html> -Ross Jaffe

  2. Apparently the GAO (Government Accountability Office) did this study where they recorded the average price of textbooks between the years 1986 and 2004. Between those years, the price of textbooks nearly tripled, and the prices have increased at approximately twice the rate of inflation. The GAO suggests that the prices for textbooks in the United States exceeds those in some other countries because there is simply more of a demand for textbooks in the United States than there are in some other countries. They also suggest that recently there is more of a demand from instructors, and companies are also deciding to accompany other features, such as CDs, with the textbooks. (This information was found at the following website: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05806.pdf)

  3. The rise in textbook prices over recent years has caused a growing used book market. One reason that textbook publishers release new editions more frequently is because they don’t make any money off used copies that are resold by used book wholesalers. My MB 107 group researched the textbook market as a part of our executive presentation and found that the online textbook market offers books much cheaper than campus bookstores, and many students are turning to these websites because of lower prices. We also conducted a market survey of students at Skidmore College who have used e-text in the past. More than 60% of students surveyed had used an e-text at some point, and the majority rated their experience a 1-2 on a scale from 1-5, 5 being the worst. Legislation forcing fixed textbook pricing would certainly lower the prices for students, but would have some unintended effects. Fixing the price of a textbook would crush the online textbook market. Bookstores would now be selling books at the same prices as the online retailers, and the convience of walking to the bookstore and getting the book immediately would be far more economical if the price of the book was fixed. It would most likely be more to purchase textbooks online due to shipping costs. Also, fixing the price of textbooks would hurt profits for textbook publishers. In response, it would be far more profitable for publishers to push e-textbooks over traditional textbooks, due to lower overhead. Many colleges are already producing e-textbooks, and Princeton University is going to be producing e-texts for the Kindle E-Reader, a popular electronic reading device produced by Amazon.com. (1) Selling e-texts eliminates the used textbook market for publishers, and the ability to profit off every e-text sold would push publishers in this new technology is textbook profitability was to become fixed. ~Nick Dupuis(1)http://www.engadget.com/2008/06/28/princeton-to-start-publishing-kindle-edition-textbooks/

  4. Textbooks are extremely expensive and I do not believe that there is a significant reason justifying the increase in their costs. Publishing companies claim that they need to update their textbooks, making frequent new editions that cost more and more money because the need to remain current and up-to-date (Pressler). Also, many publishing companies are creating package deals with their textbooks that require students to purchase supplementary materials along with the actual textbook. The inclusion of these products drives up the prices of the textbooks and forces students to pay more money (GAO). I would prefer ‘a la carte’ textbook pricing because then I could decide what is absolutely necessary for my classes and not spend extra money for superfluous material. I think that the inclusion of these materials is another scheme designed by the publishing companies to gain higher profits at the expense of students. Furthermore, I do not believe that the reasons given by the publishing companies for the rising costs of textbooks are just.Secondhand and off site textbooks dealers have an impact on the market for textbooks because they offer textbooks that will suffice at a significantly cheaper price. For example, many books come in electronic formats that are about half the cost of their print counterparts (Ross).Legislation controlling the costs of textbooks will lower the prices and prevent escalation in future years, but these laws might have other adverse effects. Many lawmakers are attempting to pass bills that would “prohibit public university employees from taking benefits from publishers in exchange for assigning particular books” (Rucker). These laws aimed at protecting students from greedy publishing companies could have unintended consequences. For instance, professors have the power to affect the changes in prices of textbooks by taking benefits from publishers. Because the professors will only choose a certain amount of textbooks, the publishing companies will strive to give the lowest price in the hopes that their company is chosen; this process will cause competition and ultimately the lowest price for textbooks (Ross). If these professors cannot take benefits from assigning particular books to students to bring down the prices of books, then the publishers can increase the costs of their products without the influence of the professors. Although these laws may lower prices from the current status quo, the possibility for even lower prices through competition could also be lost as an unintended consequence.-James YickSources:Jenna Ross of the Star Tribune http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html Philip Rucker of the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/29/AR2008012903043.html Margaret Webb Pressler of the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html The GAO http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05806high.pdf

  5. I feel that the constant increase of textbook prices have become extreme and are for the most part unjustified. Despite legislative efforts to control prices there have not been any beneficial improvements for consumers. The extra features such as CD's packaged with textbooks are often unnecessary and not used within the span of a semester. Students have no choice but to pay for these added perks, regardless of whether they feel the learning tools will help or not. While I understand that textbooks are updated to keep up with new information, I feel that this does not need to result in a rise of prices. The textbook industry blames the universities for the need to "keep its material current to win schools' support" (Pressler). If institutions agreed to provide their students with equal materials this competition would steadily diminish. Publishers fear that updated textbooks are necessary "if they want to keep the attention of today's college students, who are used to the graphics and interactivity of the Internet" (Pressler). While this may be partially true, the increasing rate of new editions published is completely unnecessary. Because students have no choice but to purchase textbooks for the classes in which they enroll, the buyer power is frighteningly low in this market. The only time the consumer has power is in purchasing discounted and used textbooks. If the textbook market lowered their prices, consumers would feel less of a need to look elsewhere for their purchases and would be less of a threat to the market. I feel that the reasoning behind many of the increases in price are merely excuses, as both textbook companies and universities try to play the blame game on one another. -Molly KimmelPressler, Margaret Webb. “Textbook Prices On the Rise: Frequent New Editions, Supplemental Materials Drive Up Costs,” September 18, 2004; Page E01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html>Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html&gt;

  6. The increase in textbook prices has become a huge concern in the past years. With students spending over 900 hundred dollars a year on textbooks, the question of whether or not the authenticity of the skyrocketing prices for textbooks is legitimate is brought forth (Ross). On one hand, textbooks are in a market where their product is in high demand due to the increase in amount of college students and the product being a necessity for the students. Therefore, the high demand for textbooks allows the higher-education publishing industry to allocate a high price on their product. However, with textbook prices increasing 6 percent every year due to pointless reasons, the industry’s justification for their prices has become unclear (Government Accountability Office). The industry reasons behind the increase in textbook prices ranges from the unnecessary bundling of supplementary aids with the textbooks to the quick turn over rate for the superfluous new editions for the books (Pressler).Although the higher-education publishing industry has stated numerous of reasons and justifications for their pricing, their high prices may in fact lead to untoward consequences for their market in the long run. One potential consequence is the impact that secondhand or off site textbook dealers and other substitutes will have on the market for textbooks. With the high prices, students will look for other alternatives and substitutes for their textbooks causing the substitution effect to occur in the textbook market. The substitution effect will cause the demand for textbooks to decrease as customers find other products to meet their satisfaction and the buyer’s reservation price for textbooks is potentially lowered. In accordance to the demand decreasing, the price on textbooks will be forced to be lowered as well in order to find the market equilibrium again (Frank & Bernanke, 2009). With the awareness being brought forth to the unjust prices for textbooks, alternatives such as textbook rental programs and electronic books are being pursued. Therefore, hopefully, the increase in textbook prices will eventually be put on a standstill and decrease again. – Caroline ShermanFrank, Robert H. and Ben Bernanke (2009). “Principles of Macroeconomics, 4th Edition.” McGraw‐Hill Irwin.Government Accountability Office. “College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases.” GAO-05-806 July 29, 2005 < http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-806>Pressler, Margaret Webb. “Textbook Prices On the Rise: Frequent New Editions, Supplemental Materials Drive Up Costs,” September 18, 2004; Page E01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html>Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html&gt;

  7. While the prices of textbooks in the most recent decades have undeniably increased well beyond necessity, raising an average of 6% each year, I believe that there is value and reason behind the new additions and package deals. As mentioned above by Nick Dupius, the rise in textbook prices has caused a growing used book market. Due to the increased availability of used textbooks, students can choose whether or not they want to buy a new version or an old addition of a book required for class. In making this decision, students should consider the cost-benefit principle. If it is worth the extra $50 cost to have a CD or podcast included with your Macroeconomics textbook, then buy the book. If you feel you will be throwing away $50 because you will never listen to what successful economists have to say about opportunity cost, do not buy the new addition. Regardless of the decision, due to the fact that less expensive textbooks are widely available, each student should be able to choose if the benefit of a new textbook is worth the extra cash.-Sophie Cohen

  8. In addition to Sophie’s comment about the large used text book market, one may also consider that companies need to profit more from each new book sold due to the fact that they will sell less new books, decreasing profits. The need for the company to make more profit off each new book will inevitably drive up price.Many people have mentioned that the price increase is not justified. While that may be true, consider the importance of a textbook to a student. Students are required to buy the books that the professors choose to use. While some professors consider price, many currently do not. Therefore, the company can raise the price because the student will almost always buy the book, even with the high price. It is essential to their success and almost every student will give in to the high price even if they don’t agree with it. Fair? Maybe not, but it sure does boost profits for the publishing house.~ Nick Dupuis

  9. As textbook prices continue to rise, consumers must become resourceful about the ways in which they buy textbooks. Students are left with no choice when their teachers assign books that cost hundreds of dollars. The publishers have control of the book’s cost and teachers have control over the books students must buy. Therefore, in a time of financial crisis, students must become more educated consumers. In order to buy cheaper books students must circumvent the system of supply and demand established by publishing companies and find an alternate source of goods.In a normal system of supply and demand, consumers are given choice in the goods they want to purchase. Rational consumers support firms with the reasonable prices and competition between firms drives the prices down. The textbook economy, as it exists between publishers, professors, and students, is unusual because students, the consumers are not given a choice of goods. Instead publishers alllow professors the role of consumer but do not ask them to bear the financial burden. Students are excluded from the process until it is time to pay the bill. The government has begun to take action towards cutting textbook costs. In House bill H.R. 4137 “publishers would be required to tell faculty how much their choices for textbooks will really cost the students”. This step alone could drastically change the way professors choose their textbooks. Rather than asking their students to buy an expensive book, only to read a few chapters, they might consider the benefits of using alternate sources. http://theboard.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/10/that-textbook-costs-how-much-200/?scp=7&sq=textbook%20prices&st=cseCS

  10. It seems to me that textbook prices are similar to a double-edged sword. On one hand, the increasing demand for updated and advanced designs causes the publishers to hike the prices up. To produce a newly designed book, publishers require more resources, entailing higher production prices (Pressler). On the other hand, of course publishers need to make a profit, but as shown in these articles students are increasingly complaining about the high costs. As a student, most of teachers who use textbooks rarely ever use the extra packages and study assistants. It is a waste and publishers may state otherwise with instructors asking for supplements, yet I see none of this (GAO). Whether or not schools claim to find ways for discounts to students, it is hard to agree. As a student stated in the Ross article, selling back his books only pocketed $15 coming from his purchase of more than 200 dollars worth of books. I myself now have to find ways around purchasing and selling books, by buying the books on amazon.com that I can find, and buying the minimal amount from the bookstore. Every semester, I end up only gaining around 15% back on my total amount of books. All of these articles seem to only show the “public” excuses for both the publishing companies and universities, yet there seems to be no better outcome from what is happening right now. The controlling of textbooks by legislation should lower textbook prices, yet no matter what one side of this debate will be unhappy. Campuses will find some way to add charges just to make a profit, even with the escalating tuition fees. Overall, trends have shown that everything is becoming digital and whether we like it or not more and more information is being placed on the Internet. I think textbook expenses will become less of an issue as the Internet takes over. Although there are fees for books online, they are less than the actual textbooks. Internet usage will cut down on paper intake and production affecting publishing companies all around. It may hurt them, yet other businesses are still able to switch over to the Internet. Unfortunately for me, I am one that likes to actually write in a book. Eloise NicollSources:
Jenna Ross of the Star Tribune http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html 
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/29/AR2008012903043.html 
Margaret Webb Pressler of the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html 
The GAO http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05806high.pdf

  11. Textbook prices have been greatly increasing over the recent years. Producers say that this is because they are adding all these extra “gadgets” to the books in order to keep up with college classrooms. As said before, this is just an excuse. I am only a freshman, but of the couple classes my friends and I have taken, only one has ever used one of these extra gadgets that cause prices to go up. Most teachers have their own style of teaching and have their own resources. They do not rely solely on what the book provides for them. Producers say they have to keep up with today’s classrooms, while most classes don’t, wont, and/or cannot keep up with them, the newer versions of textbooks. The consumer is shorthanded all around. The product is chosen for the consumer by the professor and the student/consumer has no choice but to buy the product even if it’s only going to be used for one semester. In most cases, the student does not even know what the class will be using the book for and whether it is really worth buying for that price. They have no way of determining the cost benefit value. Used book sellers are one thing that causes prices to increase. However they are a direct effect of rising prices. If textbook producers kept their prices lower, fewer students would find alternative places to buy, because they most likely would be satisfied with the prices offered at that bookstore. It is like the supply and demand curve: what a student is willing to pay. Right now, prices are way out of that range. Lowering textbook prices in the long run could ultimately lover tuition of college. Financial aid students get hundreds of dollars each semester from the college for books. Lower textbook prices could mean less money spent on each student with financial aid each year, saving the college huge amounts of money that would allow colleges to lower tuition, or spent that extra cash on newer technology that would ultimately farther down the road, allow for decreased tuition.-Jack McDermott

  12. Textbook prices are skyrocketing. With today’s economy, it gets harder and harder for families to pay not only the high price of tuition, but the price of books on top of that. It has been shown that in 2007 the price of textbooks account for “14% of annual tuition at an average public school” (BusinessWeek). There seems to be no stop to the rising prices. Production companies are notching up the price by introducing new editions almost yearly, and coupling the books with new, expensive, online study guides and other seemingly useless materials. It seems that these companies are using technology to up their prices instead of cut them. A new idea for college textbooks, however, has found a way to cut the prices almost in half. What’s their trick? Digital textbooks. They sell a personal computer type box that resembles a palm pilot. You are then able to download textbooks onto this device. The box not only allows you to take notes while reading, but it is able to show 3-D models, seemingly better than print textbooks. This not only saves money, but space and weight as well. This seems to be the textbooks of the future. With companies offering over 4,000 different textbooks, it is sure to be the cheaper alternative. Macsai, Dan. "Digital Textbooks Gaining Favor." Business Week 4 Nov. 2008. Business Week. 4 Nov. 2008. < http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/content/nov2008/bs2008114_317122.htm&gt;.Pressler, Margaret W. "Textbook Prices On the Rise." Washington Post 18 Sept. 2004: E10. Washington Post. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html&gt;.

  13. In concurrence with rising textbook costs all across the country, fighting these rising prices has taken root in 32 Universities and Colleges in Minnesota. Textbook leasing, rental programs, and online texts have all proven to help ease the cost of books on top of tuition for students. (Ross) In the effort to keep the school material current by revising books, in addition to publishers bundling certain study guides and programs, the prices have pushed over $100 for certain required books. Professors claim that the same books can be purchased through the publisher in less expensive versions, in black-and-white, or in three ring binders. (Pressler) However, the reality is that the students rather order mainly from overseas websites, which are cheaper, but include longer shipping times and no returns. Consequently, the near future will experience a surplus of books that are not purchased and the prices will be driven back down. Although the 3.4 billion-a-year-higher-education publishing industry means to win school support, it is currently making the majority of students bare the high cost of textbooks in addition to already rising tuition. As Rep Howard P. states in the Washington Post “If a student signs up for a class, they’re pretty much at the mercy of the publishers” and have no where else to go. This leaves the power of the professor’s hands to be sufficiently informed of the costs of the textbooks they are requiring students to purchase and all alternatives, even if they are asking for more content and extras. With the practice of bundling books with non-required materials rising 21 percent between consecutive editions, it seems that it is a trend that isn’t going to slow down any time soon. (Pressler)- Derek SellhausenRoss, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices.” 28 Dec. 2008. Star Tribune. 1 Feb. 2009Pressler, Margaret W. “Textbook Prices on the Rise.” Page E01 18 Sept. 2004. Wasington Post. 1 Feb. 2009.”College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases.” GAO-05-806. 29 July 2005. 1 Feb. 2009.

  14. In the eyes of many, the increase in these textbooks is unjustifiable and unfair to the college student. I agree with college student but at the same time, I understand the mentality of the publishing companies. When looking at Skidmore College, the tuition is around 50,000 dollars a year, eighth most expensive in the United States. With a staggering tuition price like that, publishers aren’t afraid of boosting up their prices. If a student is willing to put that much money towards his or her education, another thousand dollars for textbooks won’t make much of a difference. Publishers realize that textbooks are a necessity for college students in order to succeed in college. This all ties in on the nineteen percent increase between 2004 and 2007. No matter how expensive a textbook is, the college student will still be forced to purchase the item required for their class.With the new technology of electronic textbooks coming out in the near future, the price for textbooks will take a major drop. In addition to that, “Congress passed legislation requiring them (publishers) to release more information about their prices, among other things, by 2010” (Jenna Ross). This means that publishers will have no choice but to lower their prices for their textbooks in the near future. The day this new device is established and this law is put into effect, publishers will continue to drive the price of textbooks up. As for college students, they will have to endure at least one more year of paying for overpriced required textbooks.Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html>~ Alex Essaris

  15. Today, a college education is widely considered a necessary step if one wishes to become a productive member of society. Paying the tuition, however, is a source of stress for many families and an average textbook cost of $900 (Ross) per student per year is simply not justifiable. The feeble excuses that publishing companies give are that it is necessary to stay current as well as offer graphics and extra study materials (Pressler). So students are left with few options: pay an absurd amount of money for books, try to buy secondhand books, hope there are "e-book" options for their classes, don't buy the books (bad idea), or put their trust in congress and the proposed Textbook Fairness Act (Rucker). Students feel powerless, but professors can help. Professors should use the cost-benefit principle to ask themselves a simple question: is saving my students money worth a few hours of my time? If the answer is yes, I would suggest that professors do some research about book prices and editions. It may be an annoyance for them, but until there is a viable option that would lower textbook costs for students, it would be greatly appreciated by students and families alike.Pressler, Margaret Webb. “Textbook Prices On the Rise: Frequent New Editions, Supplemental Materials Drive Up Costs,” September 18, 2004; Page E01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html>Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html>Rucker, Philip. “Lawmakers Study Ways To Cut Cost Of Textbooks: Prices Are Called ‘Burden on Students,’” January 30, 2008; Page B01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2008/01/29/AR2008012903043.html>-Jolene Paternoster

  16. The increasing cost of textbooks is a complicated matter. School bookstores are allowed to sell textbooks for as much as 25 percent above wholesale price (http://www.washingtonpost.com). Legislations have proposed that this percentage be lowered. Although it would cut the cost of textbooks sold in the school stores there are also unintended consequences. Lowering this percentage would cut profit that goes to the school that somewhere down the road is spent giving back to the students. The money students would save on textbooks would end up being paid in an increased tuition. One of the reasons why textbooks are being sold at such high prices is because of publishers adding bundles of extra stuff such as Web site access, test questions and CD-ROMS (http://www.washingtonpost.com). Many of this is unnecessary and hardly used by students although they still have to pay for it. Making a law that would not let publishers sell this stuff in a bundle together with the textbook would help lower textbook prices. There are major issues faced by forcing publishers to not create new editions of textbooks as often or anything that would force them to lower their price and thus their profit. Even though the price of a textbook would go down so would the content of the book too, as the authors would be less inclined to do a good job. Decreasing the cost of producing textbooks would lower the price without any impact on the content of the material. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post reported that textbooks could be ordered in less expensive versions using black and white print and sold as three-ring-binder instead of hardback. Doing this could cut the cost of a book that would normally cost $120 to only $25. Publishers are spending too much money on making textbooks look pretty thinking that it will help the reader learn better. Students learn from what is written not how colorful it is. The high cost of textbooks leads some students to not even purchase books, I feel that textbooks should be sold in regular form and in a less expensive version. This would allow students to have the option of buying the same material at a lower price with just a difference in its visual presentation.- John BienkowskiSourceswww.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-806Margaret Webb of the Washington postwww.washingtonpost .com

  17. The rise in textbook prices in schools across the entire country is a problem that needs to be dealt with. With the rate that tuition is being raised each year, coupled with the rise in textbook prices, college is becoming almost unaffordable to most average American families. There must be something done to control the textbook companies that fuel the raise of prices by producing new editions of books each year and upgrading the books by adding more pictures and color pictures. I think that some sort of government regulation could be the answer. Granted, government regulation of textbook prices could cause the quality of the textbooks to decline, but it would be better for people to be able to afford decent quality textbooks than no textbooks at all. If the government did something to control the price of textbooks, many more people would be able to afford to go to college, which greatly outweighs the price of the lower quality.Luke Granger

  18. The increased cost of textbooks is a difficult matter. The textbooks market is uncommon in the sense that the buyer, the students, do not get to choose their product, the professors do. Students are unwillingly paying around $900 a year on textbooks, and looking at the trend, textbook prices are only going to contiue to increase. Professors should be aware of the prices of the books they require of the students because the students are obligated to buy these books no matter what the cost. School bookstores are very convenient place to buy books; they are right on campus and students can easily buy and return books without having to deal with the time and cost of shipping and handling. School bookstores on the other hand sell books for very high prices, so students have begun to look for alternative methods to decrease money they spend on books. I think that is necessary to control the prices of textbooks, and steps should be taken by the professors and students to use other resources to cut their costs of books. Websites, like Amazon.com and Half.com, have become very popular because they provide new and used books for competitive prices, and also allow students to sell back their books. Electronic textbooks are also available, where students can download textbooks on their computers inexpensively. These new advancements in technology are really beneficial to students by cutting their costs of textbooks. Even with these alternatives, buying textbooks is still pricey, and students have found resources were the price is free, but illegal. When music became available to download online, it was not long until people began pirating music, and now the same thing is happening with textbooks. Websites such as, PirateBay.org and TextTorrent.com, are the Limewires for textbooks, where students can illegally download textbooks for free. For students, they have the benefit of a free product, but for publishers it is extremely aggravating because they are getting ripped off. It is really important for school, faculty, and publishers to be control the costs of textbooks for student in order to help them financially and so they do not have to resort to illegal resources. -Alexandra FresneBray, Hiawatha. "Textbooks, free and illegal, online." The Boston Globe 18 July 2008. 2 Feb. 2009 http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2008/07/18/textbooks_free_and_illegal_online/Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html>Stross, Randall. "First It Was Song Downloads. Now It’s Organic Chemistry." The New York Times 27 July 2008. 28 Jan. 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/technology/27digi.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2

  19. As the cost of college tuition has increased, the price of textbooks has continued to rise. The textbook companies can easily be blamed, however once the company publishes a new edition of their textbook, their only source of new profit is when they reproduce a new version of text. This pressures the universities to upgrade to the new textbook. (Pressler)It is important that the professors are becoming increasingly aware of the textbook price increase. Booklets comprised by the professor of handouts bound together are significantly cheaper and convenient for students. Similarly, professors who teach the same course semester after semester can easily stick to the same book. It is one thing to upgrade to the 4th edition from the 3rd, but many professors and courses switch books entirely after just one semester with that text.With regards to the used book market, as long as there is no significant government regulation on textbook prices, the used book market only helps the market, and does not hurt the industry. In an article in the NY Times "Reading Between the Lines” Hal R. Varian explains "the presence of a market for used books makes consumers more willing to buy new books, because they can easily dispose of them later." This has little effect on the "cost-price elasticity of demand" This means that used books will not soon replace the demand for new books. An explanation of this according to Varian is that people, simply put are still buying new books enough that "the used market does not have a big impact in terms of lost sales in the new market." (Varian) Until the cost of textbooks significantly decreases or schools find an effective way to return students' money for their textbooks (more than $2 per book) there will still be enough students buying new books at the school store and used books at Amazon or half.com to keep both venues for purchasing thriving. Pressler, Margaret Webb. “Textbook Prices On the Rise: Frequent New Editions, Supplemental Materials Drive Up Costs,” September 18, 2004; Page E01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.html>Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html>Varian, Hal R."Reading Between the Lines of Used Book Sales" July 28,2005http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/28/technology/28scene.html-Yasmin Hormozi

  20. The current realities about textbook prices are bleak, especially for college students. With tuition increasing textbook prices are on the rise. But it is not only the tuition allowing for higher textbook prices. More and more people are attending college, meaning more demand for textbooks, meaning more expense for the publishers to produce textbooks, meaning textbooks will cost more. This reality is in place because no publishing company wants to make no money and just break even or loose money. And even more they are going to find ways to make extra money, like adding CDs etc. Though this makes sense and publishing companies can do this because there is a demand for textbooks, there has also been legislation past for raising textbook prices, which is unfair and arguably counter intuitive because now with textbook prices so high professors/institutions and students are finding ways to lower costs. And thank you to professors for their efforts. But students are still feeling the deficit in their wallet and are finding ways to get their books illegally, used or at a much cheaper price, which in the end is not helping the textbook companies because less and less people are willing to buy the textbooks, even as they come out with new additions, which is how they make money. In the long term this money loss could have negative effects on the economy as well. This is so because less consumption of goods does not boost the economy and on a very small scale does not promote healthy inflation. Furthermore can we really put a price on education? And even though there is financial aid for some who need it, it is not enough especially in the mist of our current economic situation. Plus everyone wants to save money and for those whose professors do not get deals on books and who can not or just will not spend the money on these more expensive texts will not have the necessary and appropriate tools to participate the growth of their education. Maybe higher costs are sometimes necessary, unavoidable and can be good. But is it right for the government to take advantage of the importance and necessity of education in order to make more money? Especially considering there are little to no votes on the textbook legislation bill, yet the bill seems to be gaining bipartisan support…interesting.-Eve Lewis “College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases.” GAO-05-806. 29 July 2005. 1 Feb. 2009. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-806Pressler, Margaret W. “Textbook Prices on the Rise.” Page E01 18 Sept. 2004. Wasington Post. 1 Feb. 2009.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30151-2004Sep17.htmlRoss, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.htmlRucker, Philip. “Lawmakers Study Ways To Cut Cost Of Textbooks: Prices Are Called ‘Burden on Students,’” January 30, 2008; Page B01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2008/01/29/AR2008012903043.html

  21. The rapid increase in textbook prices has become a major concern for students across the nation. The price of textbooks has nearly doubled with the cost increasing approximately “186 percent between 1986 and 2004” (Ross). The main factor that legislature has to keep in mind is that the market controls publishers and publishers control the consumers. In this case, college students are the consumers. At the end of the day, students need these textbooks for class and have no choice but to spend hundreds of dollars per semester on them. It seems that no matter what legislature tries to do to cut down the prices of textbooks, we will never find a definite solution to help out all the students who are suffering from the increase in prices. When it comes down to it, there will still be a large portion of students who purchase textbooks from the bookstore. Even with other alternatives, such as purchasing used textbooks online, many students prefer convenience. For students in Maryland, the average student spends $1100 on textbooks a year (Rucker). This cost could have been reduced had students taken the extra time to look for books online and bargained for lower prices. I have made it my best interest to order books from sites like amazon.com. I have been able to find brand new books cheaper than the price of a used book at the bookstore. While I understand why publishers are forced to increase the price of textbooks, to a great extent students are still being cheated out of a lot of their money. Another aspect of the situation that should be taken into account is the professors who choose these textbooks without really thinking about the students. In many of my classes, we never even utilize the textbook to its entirety. The use of e-reserves was very helpful economically for one class I had last semester and one that I am taking currently. More professors should start making use of this tool because not only is it economically friendly but environmentally friendly as well. Ross, Jenna. “Textbook economics: Colleges fight high prices,” December 28, 2008. < http://www.startribune.com/local/36813679.html>Rucker, Philip. “Lawmakers Study Ways To Cut Cost Of Textbooks: Prices Are Called ‘Burden on Students,’” January 30, 2008; Page B01. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2008/01/29/AR2008012903043.htmlL.Ciaramella

  22. Although means are being taken to make textbook prices lower, they are still quite unaffordable for students. In schools, such as Skidmore, where the only means for making textbooks less expensive is to buy them back at the end of the semester, many students are still finding themselves in piles of debt because of their books. Many publishers believe that they need to keep their books up to date so that schools will be more prone to buying them. However, more books for many of these publishers include add-ons such as e-books and websites that add on to the price. Without all of these extras, the prices of many books would go down, but not by enough to make them more affordable to students. It is because of issues such as this that textbook prices have nearly tripled over the years as has the debt of many students. Annie Roos

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