Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

Are you sick of tired of paying hundreds of dollars for a textbook you might only crack open once all semester?

Yeah, I thought so.

We all know textbooks are expensive by now. That part doesn’t really come as a surprise to us anymore. On the other hand, that awareness still doesn’t ease the sticker shock of adding up your book costs for one semester.

So why DO textbooks cost a small fortune? Let’s find out.

 

Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive? 

According to the College Board, the average college student in a four-year program pays $1,250 per year on textbooks. That’s a serious obstacle for students who are already dealing with rising tuition costs.

Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

The American Enterprise Institute also investigated the rising prices of textbooks. They found that the cost of recreational books, like novels, has gone down.

While college textbooks have gone up nearly 200%. Who’s to blame? There are a number of factors.

 

College Professors Level of Awareness

Professors frequently assign book titles without considering how much the text cost the students…or how much their students will actually USE the books that semester.

It’s not that professors are out to get us. They just might not be aware of how expensive the book really is–or they don’t think about the price at all.

Book publishers pressure educators too. They have sales reps that come onto campus and push the latest edition, bundled with software. At the end of the day, you professor really has no reason to keep the costs of their book down.

In this case, we have to educate our professors as well.

Ask them at the beginning of the semester (or prior to the start of it) if you REALLY need the latest edition of the textbook–or if you can get through the semester with a used copy. Explain to them that you want to do well in their class but the cost of the textbook is holding you back.

 

Book Publishers Want Profits

Publishers play the main role in driving up book costs.

Did you know there are only 5 major book publishers that run the textbook market? That’s right, 80% of the market is controlled by these 5 textbook publishers.

And they’re hungry for profits. They bundle textbooks with software and unique codes that forces students to buy the latest edition.

These traditional publishers don’t make money off you purchasing used books–so they do everything in their power to make those older editions “out of date” and useless.

Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

Campus Bookstores Markup Retail Prices  

Your campus bookstore wants to make money too. Book publishers are hungry for profit…but so are universities.

Campus bookstores usually mark the retail price of a textbook up by 25-28%. Depending on how much your book costs, this markup can be significant. That means a $200 textbook becomes $250 at the bookstore.

Look closely at your college bookstore website. You’ll probably come across a pricing policy section that explains what their current markup is.

However, this isn’t to vilify your campus bookstore. It costs them money to run the bookstore–they have overhead like paying their employees. To be honest, many campus bookstores are owned by Barnes & Noble anyway.

 

It Depends on Your Field of Study

Information changes rapidly depending on what field you’re studying. If you’re in a field like medical or science? They’re constantly discovering new information and the textbooks have to be updated as a result.

However, if you’re studying a field like math, you’ll find the information doesn’t really change. With this in mind, you can most likely get away with an older textbook version.

 

Search via Textbook Nova

Fortunately, the internet is changing the textbook industry. Website search engines like ours–TextbookNova.com–can save you money.

Search for your assigned text via the ISBN. The ISBN is the bar-code number for the textbook; it should be 10 digits or 13 digits. Why is this so important? Well, it lets you know that you’re getting the right version/edition of the book.

Once you’ve the right textbook, you’ll see options for buying it full price, used, or renting it (usually the cheapest). If you want to go with a used edition, you can price compare multiple price range options based on the condition of the book.

 

What’s Next?

All in all, today’s textbook publishing model and the rising costs won’t last. It just isn’t sustainable. Open-sourced material is spreading online and the internet has given students far more options for price shopping.

The more we understand about why we’re paying so much for a textbook, the more can do to influence the current system.

 

How to use Textbook Nova

Textbook Nova is a search engine dedicated to helping you find the right books you need for school and educational purposes. If you are having trouble finding the correct books for this semester, have no fear; Textbook Nova is here!

Home Page

When you first come to the textbook nova homepage you are presented with two simple search options.

You can choose to either enter text for your search in the top bar or select a category from the drop down menu. If you choose to select a category, you will be brought to Search Results page as soon as the menu closes. If you need to locate a book by using the title, author, or even the ISBN number you can enter your query into the text box and then press the Search button. When you perform any type of search the website will bring you to the Search Results page, unless you are looking for an ISBN-10 or ISBN-13 number. In that case if the website finds the book assigned to that ISBN number it will bring you directly to the Details Page.

Search Results Page

Once the site does a search for your query or category you will be brought to a page with a list of books that fit your criteria.

In this example we have searched for “Computer Science” and see that we have a few results already showing up. If you click on any of the rows in this table it will bring you to the Details Page.

Details Page

In this page the specifics about one book are shown to the user.

A large image of the book cover is shown to the top left and underneath that are the two ISBN numbers assigned to this book. On the right-hand side you can see the full title, author, publisher, binding type, and other details about this book. To see where to purchase the book click on the link at the top of the page or on the book cover.

You are also able to rate each book depending on how close it was to what you are looking for. If this is exactly the correct book for your class you can give it 5 stars, if it is nowhere near what you need you can give it 1 star.

Underneath the book details page is another place where you can vote to say what you are using the book for. This feature helps shoppers confirm that this is the correct book for the class that they are taking. If you are looking at a book you need for a High School class, but the votes indicate that it is mostly used in Master’s programs; then you know something is wrong. To place a vote use the drop down menu and select what type of degree you will be using this book for.

If you scroll further down on the Details page you will also see other helpful things like a description of the contents of the book, user reviews, and similar books.

Five mistakes to avoid when buying textbooks online

Often times people whoare trying to buy the textbooks they need for their classes, they will make a mistake…. and often times a very costly mistake. Textbooks can be expensive and places that buy books back from you often will give you a mear fraction of what you paid. You’d be lucky to find a place that will give you your money back within 30-days, but even then if you have purchased your books well in advanced (like the punctual person you are!) then you might not be able to refund all the money you just spent. Here are the most commonly made mistakes when purchasing books online:

  1. Make sure you get the right version. It’s extremely common practice for textbook publishers to keep the same cover to a textbook when they change editions, so if you are purchasing a book online make sure you confirm that you are looking at the correct edition for your class… don’t assume just because it looks like the right book that it is. And always remember, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”
  2. Fail to use the ISBN search. Textbook stores like textbooknova.com and a few others allow users to search for their book based on the ISBN (either a 13 or a 10 digit number to uniquely identify a book). Using an ISBN search is the number one most accurate way to find your textbooks, and if you are on a website that doesn’t allow you to do ISBN look-ups, don’t even bother spending any more of your time (or money) on that marketplace!
  3. Fail to match the title of the textbook. Another frequently made mistake among textbook buyers is that they do not match the exact title that is required for the class. There could be a billion textbooks called “Chemistry” but if your class needs the book “Earth Chemistry” or any variation like that then you need to make sure you are looking at buying the correct book.
  4. Price shop around! Often you will be able to find the correct book, but if you fail to attempt to find your book at a few other marketplaces, you might end up spending way too much money! Make sure you do your due diligence to find the marketplace with the best price for the textbook before you buy it online. Fortunately for you, if you are searching Textbook Nova then you can rest assured that we offer some of the most competitive prices available.
  5. Buying a used copy without checking for the quality. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve tried to save money by purchasing a used textbook, only to find out half way through the semester that someone had torn pages out on an important chapter. How many times have you seen someone bored in class doodling inside their book? Who even knows where that textbook has been! If you are buying used textbooks online, make absolutely sure you can check to see the quality of the used book and try to find the ones closest to new.

We hope these tips have been helpful for anyone purchasing books online, and hope you have a great semester of classes!