College textbooks may be a bit overpriced. Let’s be real. College textbooks are way too overpriced.
According to sources like Business Insider and US News, textbook prices are up 812 percent since 1978 and have increased faster than tuition, healthcare costs and housing prices. Overall, the average student will have to spend $655 on textbooks per year.
Our resident Rutgers university bookstore offer two rental prices (New and Used) where students can rent a book for the semester in order to save money. Nearly 90 percent of Rutgers- Camden and Camden County College students rent their textbooks, where they have the ability to shave as much as 80 percent off of the original price. As well as rentals, the bookstore gives students the option to actually buy the textbooks new or used if they choose to go that rather expensive route. Len Oser, General Manager of Rutgers Group Barnes & Noble, knows students want to save the money and does everything he can to accommodate them.
“We try to get as many used books as we can,” said Oser. “Our first intention is to get used books because they are less expensive.”
The fact that we have to pay up to $200 for one textbook is a travesty. Now, multiply that extreme by about two or three books for each class at an average of five classes per semester to be considered a full time student. That’s a lot of money and certainly more than most students can afford at this point in their lives. I guess the publishers are assuming that we all have full time, six-figure income jobs on the side while also striving to earn our degrees.
At the very core of this are those dastardly publishers who are taking our money away from us for textbooks that we will never need past a couple of months or even weeks. As much as I can certainly attest for doing what you have to do to make a living, these publishers are really stealing money when it comes to these textbooks.
I spoke with Andrea Randazzo, a Publisher’s Representative for Pierson Higher Education, about how publishing companies actually price their textbooks. She couldn’t comment on the matter as she had little knowledge about the process.
“I honestly have no idea,” said Randazzo, “how many authors contributed to the book and the rights to the materials could factor in.”
Although she couldn’t provide much information about the pricing process, she did acknowledge that “Pierson is very aware that the prices can be high for students.”
Their awareness is shown through their online platform called “Revel” where for $65, students can have access to the online and interactive versions of Pierson published textbooks that may be required for their classes. Revel is available on any device for students and is supposed to serve as a cheaper purchasing option as opposed to buying textbooks from a bookstore. According to Randazzo, the platform is continuing to grow and develop.
As much as we would like to blame the school bookstore for a lot of these textbook pricing problems, they are truly here to help us and have little to no control over the price. In fact, after talking to the manager of our local Rutgers University Barnes and Noble, they want to make it easier for students to buy books. Let’s break this down.
Rutgers University bookstores are under contract with the University through the HEOA Act, which mandates that all higher education schools have to have a specific format for tuition costs and book prices. At Rutgers, this format is used is: One- fifth of the prices of textbooks goes to the bookstore itself, which covers personnel and operating costs, while three-fourths of the prices go straight to the publisher. Out of the publisher’s fraction of the profit, cents of every dollar go towards different mediums that go into the actual selling of the textbook. For example, 15.4 cents of every dollar goes to marketing, 11.7 cents go to the author(s), and 32.2 cents goes to the cost of paper, printing and the publisher’s employees. The possible copyrighted materials that come within a textbook can also contribute to the price of it.
When a school bookstore receives the shipment of textbooks from any given publisher, there is a 25 percent profit margin given within the original sticker price of the book. This is mandated through contractual obligations. This means that the cost of the book in the bookstore will be 25 percent more than the wholesale price of the book. This profit margin helps to cover things like payroll and shipping costs. The bookstore is at the mercy of the publisher because without the publishers, the bookstore itself would not be able to sell these textbooks. University bookstores do have the ability to ease the pain a little.
Rutgers University bookstores give the teachers a platform to choose their required textbooks for students through the Faculty Inlight. This is a tool that lists all of the books that are used in other universities that get their books through Barnes & Noble. This allows teachers to also see how much each book will cost for the student so they can make their selections accordingly. In essence, the teachers also have power in the prices of textbooks and can be a determining factor on how much students will pay or save in textbook fees.
What we really need to worry about is the effect that these textbook prices have on us, the students. According to the US Public Interest Research Group, the average student will pay $1,200 each year on textbooks. This is the equivalent to 39 percent of tuition and fees at a community college and 14 percent at four- year universities. These statistics are taking a toll on the average student.
According to a study done by US News consisting of more than 2,000 college students in 33 states and 156 campuses, 65 percent of students are deciding against buying a book required for class and 94 percent of those students were concerned that this would hurt their grade. The inflated prices of these textbooks can also have an effect on what classes students choose, as nearly 50 percent of those students said that textbook prices had an effect on what classes they choose and how many they take.
Textbooks are a vital part of the education of every college student. There’s no way around it. The more these textbook prices rise, the more negative effect it will have in the lives of college students. Business is business, but sometimes, you can stretch a business way too far. In the case of textbook publishing companies, the rubber band is about to snap and leave a permanent mark.