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Students suffer soaring textbook prices

At the start of every semester, the campus bookstore is crawling with students scouring the shelves to find their required texts. Some are found searching in vain for that last used book while others are heard gasping at the price tag of a new one.

Some students may choose to buy new textbooks, possibly because they can’t stand the previous owner’s sloppy highlighting and annotations, or perhaps because that sticky substance on page 347 is too mysterious. Less picky students may be forced to purchase unused books because their professor is using a new edition or requiring students to purchase bundles.

When the semester ends, students will sell the books back to the bookstore, often for less than half of what they paid. Frequently, they are even turned down because a new edition of the book is available or the stock is at capacity. It’s apparent that students are getting the worst end of the trade, but who is to blame?

To understand why college textbooks are costing students an average of $450 per semester, according to, one must take into account all the elements involved in the publication, manufacturing, promotion and distribution of the book. According to McGraw-Hill,a leading college textbook publisher, the author receives 15 percent of the book’s selling price, the bookstore receives 20 percent and the publisher obtains what is left after paying other parties involved in the production.

The need for a new textbook edition is not so much because of a change in the intrinsic content but more so from a need for authors, publishers and those involved in the marketing mix to generate more profit from an old product. According to the National Association of College Stores, textbook authors and publishers make profit only on the first sale of a book, which means they must continue producing new editions to turn a profit.

The subject of calculus has undergone minimal changes since Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnez and Sir Isaac Newton’s modern contributions in the 1700s, yet publishers continue to create new editions of calculus books. Textbook authors – generally college faculty – perceive a void and add minor changes, thus giving publishers incentive to create a new edition. Other academic studies, such as computer engineering, are constantly in flux, which creates a legitimate need for newer, more advanced textbooks to be offered.

“With the horrendous price of gasoline constantly on the rise, it would be arduous to combat new book prices,” said Eric Schwartz, a mathematics education major, “unless textbooks were manufactured more cost-effectively.”

There are many alternatives to buying new books from the school bookstore. Most students are familiar with off-campus bookstores such as Gray’s College Bookstore – which offers customer rewards bucks – and Books and More Inc., both located on Fletcher Avenue. Some students are also acquainted with and EBay’s, which give students opportunities to purchase new, used or international versions of textbooks.

A more innovative and eco-friendly solution for buying books is, a textbook rental site that plants a tree whenever a student rents a book. According to the Website, college students purchase a tree per year in textbooks and renting instead of buying would help keep books in circulation longer. Chegg provides a postage-paid label that makes mailing books back nearly hassle-free.