Statistics find textbook costs are up

by Lacey Crisp

The excitement of a new semester can turn into a disappointment when students go to the bookstore to get course materials.

That’s because textbook prices have increased in the last year, according to National Association of College Stores statistics released last week.

Laura Nakoneczny, director of public relations for the association, said textbook prices often keep students from buying textbooks at all.

“Fifty-seven percent of students don’t buy all of their required course materials, which is alarming,” Nakoneczny said. “Students are potentially jeopardizing their education because of the cost of books.”

The statistics also detail where money paid for textbooks goes. On average, 22 percent of the sales of textbooks go to the bookstore, and approximately 78 percent go to the publisher.

Where the money goes has also changed in the last year, Nakoneczny said.

“The publishers’ cut have gone up a few tenths of a cent, and the bookstores’ have actually come down a little bit,” Nakoneczny said.

She said the association is concerned about textbook prices and students’ ability to pay for them. Students can save money by buying used books, she said.

But used books are not always available, she said. If a new edition comes out, bookstores don’t buy back the old editions.

To lessen the financial impact on students’, some professors are using course packets instead of textbooks, she said.

“In political science, you see a lot more course packets, because the material is dated by the time the book comes out,” Nakoneczny said.

University political science professor Wendy Rahn said new editions come out more quickly than they used to.

“It is hard not to use the new editions when political science changes so often,” she said.

She said textbooks are now offering a lot of “bells and whistles.”

“The more expensive books contain the supplemental things like CDs” Rahn said. “Publishers hope that more people choose the high-priced textbooks that contain the extra stuff.”

Bob Crabb, director of the University Bookstores, said he has seen publishers producing more new editions of textbooks in the last few years.

“Sometimes, it’s legitimate, where new research or information is added to the books,” Crabb said. “A lot of times, it’s not legitimate, it’s just window dressing to the book that is not material, and yet it results in used books not being available to students.”

Crabb said the bookstores keep 25 percent of the money from textbooks, and the other 75 percent go to the publisher.

“There’s a lot of electronic material in the books nowadays,” Crabb said. “Books will come with a CD or DVD, and that adds to the package cost.”

Crabb said that despite the increase in prices, the bookstore is not seeing the extra money.

“The break between the college store and the publisher has remained at the same percentage,” Crabb said.

He said bookstores do not make much money from selling textbooks, which is why stores sell goods, such as clothing, to make a profit.

Rahn said professors understand the high book costs but have to consider educational value.

“Professors are trying to use the Internet and put course material on it to make it cheaper for students,” Rahn said.

She said textbooks exist where there is a market. Because many students take introductory courses, there are many textbooks available for those courses.

“For some courses, like introductory classes, there are textbooks out there that compete for classes to use them,” Rahn said.

Rahn compared the textbook industry with the pharmaceutical industry.

“Publishers encourage professors to use certain books the same way drug companies push certain pills on doctors,” Rahn said.