Saving on textbooks

Textbook prices have increased twice the rate of inflation since the mid 1980s, and the average college student spends more than $900 each year on books.

Between 2006 and 2007, the textbook market earned more than $5.5 billion in profits, with the average textbook books in the United States costing 20 percent more than in the U.K. Obviously, textbooks are costly; their outrageous fees are perpetually debated in the media and among students on University campuses nationwide. Though various organizations exist to advocate lower costs, legislation for textbook regulation wonâÄôt pass before we graduate. So itâÄôs time we find our own thriftiness. Yet when textbook prices have increased twice the rate of inflation since the mid 1980s and the average college student spends more than $900 each year on books, where do we begin? It is unfortunate the state of Minnesota is not a part of a nonprofit like Make Textbooks Affordable, which was started by students at the University of California , Irvine and combines a coalition of student PIRGs and Government Associations in fourteen states. Additionally, no legislation governs transparency for textbook prices in our state like the states of Missouri and California. In other words, aside from the age-old primary sources kept outside of regular library circulation, most universities no longer value the crackle of old crusted glue and the musty smells of yellowing pages. Most classes require the latest editions of their textbooks, and as a student, there are only a few ways around buying the new books that cycle through classrooms at an increasing rate. According to Reuters , âÄúPublishers are releasing new editions more frequently, partly in response to the growth of the used textbook market. The GAO found that the most widely purchased textbooks on college campuses have new editions published every three years, on average.âÄù It seems our need to become thrifty in the world of textbooks not only remains pertinent, but is increasing at a constant. That said, we must assume our own responsibility and innovation to find inexpensive textbooks available for our peers and ourselves. Luckily, as textbook costs are rising at nearly four times the rate of inflation for all finished goods (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and 40 percent of the cost of community college education is textbooks more options are becoming available for students to cut costs. Particularly, Flat World Knowledge and Better World Books not only reduce monetary sums but also reinforce social responsibility and literacy advocacy alike. Flat World Knowledge, raising $8 million in capital last year, advocates the use of textbooks online for free. The company provides instructors with tutorials and classroom materials, written and edited by experts in the field in which they teach. Through the website, instructors have the capability of editing their studentâÄôs books before they access them online and catering the tutorials to their classroom needs. Additionally, Flat World Knowledge understands that most print versions of new textbooks are printed in color, and that versions in grayscale can often cut the cost of a book in half. So, in addition to utilizing resources online for free, students have the option of âÄúaffordable alternativesâÄù on the website; they can purchase a printed copy of their textbook in black and white and spend less than the cost of a traditional color copy youâÄôd find in a bookstore. WhatâÄôs more, the company even offers podcasted tutorials and study guides for students who are often always on the go. Better World Books offers not only a solution to our textbook problem, but manages it in a sustainable and socially responsible manner. According to Fast Company Magazine , Better World Books is, âÄúharnessing the collective consumer power of a global network of book lovers to fund literacy programs, support environment and create good jobs.âÄù With a $5 million contribution to world literacy last year, the company easily denotes success. Better World Books was created in 2003 by three Notre Dame graduates, and the initial idea was simple: Run a book donation drive as means for individuals, companies and libraries to rid themselves of their excess pages, and gather as many titles as possible. Keeping the books out of landfills, the three sold the books they gathered to fund a reading program at a local community center. Needless to say, the idea was profitable and the company now earns a large online retail presence at The website functions much life and Amazon, but the difference is that most of their profits go to fund national literacy organizations like Books for Africa, Room to Read and WorldFund. ItâÄôs a beautiful integration of social impact from a basic model of commodity and supply and demand. With a stock of more than 2 million new and used books that have all been donated, the companyâÄôs warehouse in India resembles a library and a Costco alike. Footage from CNN this week depicted library books with remaining shelving tags and freshly cellophaned collegiate textbooks. Individuals are able to organize their own book drives on campuses and other communities, and the company holds drives for literacy at more than 120 colleges each year. After searching and successfully finding a rare book required for my dance theory class at a discounted price, IâÄôm convinced the Better World Books is a good option for our exponentially increasing textbook problem. WhatâÄôs more, you never pay for shipping unless youâÄôre outside of the U.S. In that case, youâÄôll incur only $3.97 in shipping to the rest of the world. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected].