Textbook Racket.

Recently I have been thinking about the horrendous amount of money that college textbooks cost.  The College Board lists the average price of “books and supplies” for a college student to be $1,168 PER SEMESTER (https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/college-costs/quick-guide-college-costs).  Taking into consideration the egregious cost of writing utensils and paper (sarcasm, here), this means that textbook publishers are milking about $1,150 out of us (assuming you buy a LOT of pens and paper).  In the 2011-2012 year, there were about 19.7 million college students in the United States (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb11-ff15.html).  This means that the college textbook racket makes an estimated $45,310,000,000 from textbook sales alone.  *ahem*.  That number is billion. 45 billion to be exact.  This is bloody ridiculous.

So, why do we keep buying these outrageously priced textbooks?  Well, we have to, don’t we?  Professors always seem to require us to purchase the newest editions of a textbook.  The edition in which the only change is the numerical ordering of a problem set on pages 450-452.  The only way that we could NOT buy these textbooks is if our respective colleges did not require them.  Oh, but they wouldn’t do that.  How else would their bookstores continue buying back books at 6% of the original cost?

The only way to veer away from these overpriced, paper textbooks is to introduce a new medium for textbooks.  I think you all know where I’m going with this: e-books.  In my opinion, e-books still have quite a ways to come.  They are not perfect in the ways that they are implemented.  Firstly, e-books require some kind of device to access the books.  Ideally, this would be some kind of e-reader.  I don’t see this as much of a problem, but more of as an investment.  This past Black Friday (a consumerism-extravaganza for all those who aren’t from the States), the latest, baseline model of the Kindle e-reader was on sale for 69.99.  I haven’t spent less than that on textbooks in my four semesters at college.  There are some other things that may be problematic, though.  For example, many e-books are device-specific.  This means that they can’t be shared onto someone else’s device.  However, some publishers do offer open-source books that can be shared.  Do I believe that e-books are a way to disband this textbook racket? Maybe, but not in their current state.  Currently, while slowly implementing e-books into the curriculum, we should find ways to lessen the cost of physical, paper textbooks.

How many of my readers have heard of “International Edition Textbooks”?  Probably not many of you.  Those of you that have heard of them probably think they’re illegal (they aren’t) due to the clever opposition to them: US textbook manufacturers.  You see, the International Edition of a textbook is made by the same company that creates the National version.  The International versions are usually outsourced and made in places like Asia.  These International versions are sold MUCH cheaper than the National versions because prices have to fluctuate with the market.  In some impoverished part of some country across the ocean, the book that you just paid 200 USD for is being sold for 45 USD.  Sure, there are some caveats.  International versions are usually printed in only black and white (this could be problematic for, say, an economics or statistics book in which colored graphs were needed to emphasize a point) on lower quality paper.  Also, they usually can’t back to bookstores or textbook-buying companies.  However, the initial cost of the International version is usually less than buying the National version and selling it back to some company.  Textbook publishing companies don’t want you to save money on your textbooks, hence why many people either don’t know about International versions of textbooks or question the legality of them.  Textbook publishers want to bleed you dry.

Have a great day!


Edit:  I had a friend point out to me that I use the word ‘egregious’ an egregious amount (in my last three blogs, to be exact). This word seems to want to enter into my blogs without me noticing.  I won’t go back and change the word, but I vow to NOT USE THE WORD EGREGIOUS IN ANY BLOG THIS SEMESTER.  Keep me to my word, readers.

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