Letters to the Editor

Textbook costs

March 19, 2007


To the editor:

The students polled in the March 10 question, "Do you think college textbook prices have gotten out of control?" do not tell the whole story regarding textbook costs and options.

Publishers are sympathetic to students' concerns about the cost of textbooks. That's why they provide a range of learning materials from which faculty can choose. For example, there are 216 introductory psychology titles currently on sale in college bookstores around the country at retail prices ranging from $23.44 to $120.54. Publishers offer a variety of low-cost options such as split editions, electronic books, black-and-white editions, custom books and abbreviated editions. These alternatives and a new and expanding range of technologies are helping more students pass their courses, stay in school and graduate sooner, saving students time and money while improving their success rates.

According to the independent research service Student Monitor, the average college student spent $644 on textbooks during the 2005-2006 academic year, a cost that has remained generally steady for the past three years. Faculty and anyone else can instantly get price information from publishers' Web sites, bookstores or dozens of online booksellers.

As the cost of higher education continues to escalate, America's publishers are helping students get the most out of their tuition dollar by responding to students' educational needs. In fact, today's college textbooks may be among the best long-term investments a student can make.

Stacy Scarazzo Skelly, assistant director for Higher Education Association of American Publishers, Washington, D.C.


temperance 10 years, 11 months ago

I have a really hard time believing that publishers are sympathetic to student concerns about high textbook costs. That's like a used car salesman really making sure the guy on his lot gets the best deal. Honest! This boilerplate letter from an industry hack is futile. It's going to be hard to convince anyone that textbooks are reasonably priced. Especially now, when students can get an array of accurate information for free online, it's just impossibly to justify the costs and the shiny pictures and add-ons that contribute to the high costs only add insult to injury. From the instructor side, textbooks aren't better than they were 10 or 20 years ago they just aren't. And every year, instructors are pressured to adopt a "new" edition (that isn't really new, but has more aforesaid shiny pictures) and those costs are passed down to students. It's a racket. This is why one of the best moves new instructors can make is to NOT use a textbook for their course: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2007/03/06/weir

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

"In fact, today's college textbooks may be among the best long-term investments a student can make."

Seriously? I rarely opened a textbook in my Master's level classes. The few books that I've kept from both grad and undergrad have never been reopened. I only have them because the bookstore wasn't buying them back.

moo 10 years, 11 months ago

It is a racket, I agree. My freshman year first semester I actually spent about $800 on textbooks. When I tried to sell them back to my college bookstore, which ripped me off in the first place, they tried to give me $15. I decided just to keep the books. The paper they're printed on is worth more than that. As for shopping online, it's a great idea but actually not all that practical. The books I need for my classes aren't announced till the beginning of the semester and if you order books then, you end up bookless for at least a month. Believe me, I've seen it happen time and time again.

cat_soup 10 years, 11 months ago

These options are out there, sure. But when my Italian TA tells me that I have to buy the $120 Italian book... who cares whether there's one on the market for $25?

Shopping online IS cheaper, but if you need a book by the first couple days of class, don't count on it being there. I just recently purchased a book online for one of my classes this semester. The book showed up 5 weeks into the semester and we had already used the book at least once a week to write a paper or journal of some sort, so this isn't practical or helpful in any way, aside from the cost.

gr 10 years, 11 months ago

"The book showed up 5 weeks into the semester "

How long before class started did you purchase the book?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.