College Study Books Prices Soar Uncontrollably

College students heading back to the classroom aren’t only in for a sticker shock when it comes to school supplies, electronics and clothing. A new chart produced by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) shows that college textbooks are spiraling out of control as their prices have skyrocketed 150 percent since 1998, and 82 percent in the past decade alone.

According to the data from the Business of Labour Statistics (BLS), the costs of new college textbooks have risen much faster than the overall rate of inflation and even college tuition. Students can expect to spend on average $1,200 per year on brand new textbooks.

The price for recreational books, meanwhile, has dropped when compared to the rate of inflation over the past 16 years.

CHART: College textbook prices (+150%) vs. Consumer Prices (+47%) vs. Recreational book prices (+0.08%), 1998 to 2014 — Mark J. Perry (@Mark_J_Perry) August 18, 2014

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempted to justify the substantial increases in the price-tags of college textbooks by noting that publishers have inserted CDs and supplementary sections inside. With higher labour, overhead, administrative, printing and publishing costs, some college students understand why they’re spending around $200 for a textbook.

Other Students and associations, though, aren’t pleased with the explanation. Several organizations are now demanding investments and support for students to access the much-needed material through more affordable means if schools and publishers won’t curb their textbook fees.

"The rate of textbook price increases is outrageous and unsustainable. It’s time to renew calls for investment and support for alternative publishing models like Open Educational Resources, which can make textbooks affordable for all students," said Nicole Allen, Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs), in a statement.


With the brand new school year upon us, students and education experts are providing a list of methods to save money when purchasing textbooks for the semester. One of the suggestions is to buy used books early or rent them from bookstores or even older peers. Bookstores are trying to obtain a larger number of used books so they can rent them out to students, which they say is the current trend among college and university attendees.

"If there are used copies available of that same book but new, then we can sell it to the student at up to a 50% discount,” said Timothy Weingarten, owner of Students First Bookstore in Michigan, in an interview with a local Fox News affiliate. "First you look at the spine to see if all the pages are still intact, then you look to see if any pages have been ripped out. Then you look at any water damage."

A growing number of students are taking part in Amazon’s textbook rental program as part of the Internet retailer’s AmazonStudent. The company also has a long list of textbooks that are discounted as much as 90 percent.

Reuters recently published a list of other tips that students utilize to save money, including buying online, using ebooks, visiting the library and sharing with a classmate and splitting the costs.

Textbooks photo by John Liu via Flickr. Student photo by Student Success Center via Flickr.