Price of Textbooks Causes Students to Cringe

Rachel Bethke

According to a report run by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2005, textbook prices have tripled within the last 20 years. With numbers that have doubled the inflation rate, the cost of books has exceeded the budgets of many college students.

However, as much as students tend to blame the bookstores for the shockingly high prices, the real damage is done by the producers. Neither the students nor the faculty decide on the product that will be used for classes, which gives the publishing companies free reign to choose a product and set prices. The choices of author and edition are slim, and when there is less to choose from, the competition price gets easier to raise.

In 1999, Anthony Gray, the editor in chief of the paper at Hudson Valley Community College in New York, requested information concerning how much the college paid for their books versus how much they sold them for. His request was denied and he sued. The store said that releasing that information may put them at a “competitive disadvantage with competing non-college bookstores.”

After Gray’s lawsuit, Hudson Valley Community College must now provide the price of each book in their store. Unfortunately, since 1999 the price of books has increased greatly which proves that merely posting the purchasing price is ineffective.

So who is really making all the profits on our textbook sales? The National Association of College Stores has provided a price distribution layout.

Bundling – and I don’t mean mittens and scarves on a cold day – adds a whole new aspect to the price of textbooks. The CD’s and extra material shrink-wrapped and stuck in the middle of the textbooks is a tactic called “bundling.” Whether or not one every uses the inserts there is no choice but to pay for them.

The GAO report said that bundling increases the expense of books to the bookstore and makes them more difficult to be resold.
In an effort to save money, students are looking for other avenues in which to buy textbooks. GCC alumnus Sevada Begijanyan, who is currently a senior at UCLA, said, “Always look for alternative options before buying from the bookstore.”

Recently, students have been purchasing used books by either buying them from other students or getting them from other sellers, such as non-college book stores or online. GCC sophomore Olivia Rufus said, “Usually I buy mine [textbooks] online from”
Rufus, along with many other college students, may be saving money by finding new places to purchase books, but it seems unfair to have the supply of needed textbooks on campus yet forced to search elsewhere because of outrageous pricing.

Congress has even stepped in and passed into law the Higher Education Opportunity Act on Aug. 14. Chairman George Miller said, “This law overhauls our nation’s higher education laws, advancing key reforms that address the soaring price of college and remove other obstacles that make it harder for qualified students to go to college.”