At the beginning of each semester gasps can be frequently heard as the price of students textbooks appear on the register. Much to the dismay of students, the price of textbooks is rising, leaving space in their wallets for coupons instead of cash.
The St. Petersburg Times found in 2001 students nationwide paid $800 million more for books than they did in 2000. Last year, students spent an average of $800 per year on books, with most books averaging $74 each, while upper level textbooks average an even higher price. There are several causes for this phenomenon.
According to The Times, publishers are issuing new editions of textbooks at an increasing rate. Some publishers are even releasing new editions after only one year, eliminating the option to purchase used books that can save students a sizeable sum. There seems little need for so many new editions of books about basic math and English. University of Florida professor Richard Beilock compared an old and new edition of a book for his agricultural economics class. He cites that the only difference between the two was a single graph that instead of having pizza and machinery on the graphs axes now has pizza and robots.
Publishers are also increasing the practice of bundling required books with study guides, CD-ROM, class syllabi and access codes to Web sites. The prices of these bundles can be alarming. The bundle required for the Swahili class at USF is $295. Most of these bundles can only be purchased new, leaving many students with meager returns come resale time.
Campus bookstores are the scapegoats that most students target to vent their frustrations about the overwhelming cost of books. In fact, bookstores receive around 30 percent of the price of a textbook. With authors only receiving around 8 percent, by far the largest portion goes to the publisher. Granted, the publisher must meet printing, storage and distribution costs; nevertheless, a rise in textbook prices of more than 40 percent in the last ten years has made undergraduate study a financial challenge for many students.
For years now, some students have tried to buck the system and help pay for their friends’ books with the leftover $600 Bright Futures stipend received at the start of the year. What they don’t realize is the unused money doesn’t go to waste, it is returned to them at the end of the year.
With nearly 20 percent of students in the United States not purchasing all of the books required for their classes, textbook prices often mean students are faced with the choice of reducing the value of their education or being forced to live beyond their means.