Cutting Down Textbook Costs

Elizabeth Managan has an interesting column in the Cav Daily about the source of high textbook costs, and efforts at UVa to lower them. Often these textbooks are $80 – $120. Sometimes a textbook is nothing more than a photocopied 100 pages or so, which will set you back $50. It’s funny how often that these expensive textbooks are written by professors at the very college where they’re required. Worst of all is the system by which the school sells you a used textbook for $60, buys it back from you for $15, and turns around and sells it again for $60. Anybody have any textbook horror stories?

5 thoughts on “Cutting Down Textbook Costs”

  1. Hell no, I just want to know how I can get in on this scam.

    Anybody teach a class on Public Radio commentaries? If so, I’m raising the price of my book to, uh, sixty bucks. Yeah, that’s it: sixty bucks. That price has a nice, substantial ring to it.

    Janis Jaquith

    author of “Birdseed Cookies: A Fractured Memoir”

    (STILL only $16 at New Dominion!)

  2. What’s incredible is that some of these textbooks are produced in breathtaking quantities, given that some of them serve as the primarily reference in [Biology|Chemistry|Calculus|English], and so it’s not a matter of small print runs forcing prices up.

    As best as I can tell, some of these 200-page paperback textbooks are $60 simply because the publishers have determined that, now that their book is the standard, they can charge $60. That same book at New Dominion might fetch $20. I guess it’s simple supply-and-demand, but I’ve got a hard time believing that the textbook publishers aren’t in cahoots with the colleges.

    I call shenanigans!


  3. Link Magazine had an interesting story about how Follett’s has been in legal trouble for their buy-back practices.

    Also, a Santa Monica College student diagrammed where the costs come from, and also provided an interesting writeup about where the problem comes from. She blames it on publishers.

    One aspect of this scam that’s pointed out is that of new editions. I remember that my girlfriend was told at PVCC one year that she simply had to have the newest edition of a textbook. She had last year’s version. She got the newest one, which turned out to simply be the previous edition with a few chapters rearranged.


  4. Several years ago at Hampshire college I had to purchase a textbook that was only offered used by the campus bookseller. Hampshire’s sticker price for the used volume? $16. That seems pretty reasonable until you look under it to see the original price printed onto the back cover by the publisher. It sold for $8.95 new. It was not out of print.

    I’ve heard of this trick being used at other colleges as well. Stocking only used volumes, waiting until the last minute to offer them for sale, and then jacking the price up over the cost of a new book. When the class starts in 2 days, you don’t have enough time to order a fairly priced book online.

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