Monday, August 3, 2015

Textbook Prices Have Increased 1,041% Since 1977

Your child might be attending college or university for the first time this fall and before they attend their first class they might be schooled first in economics.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041% increase. This is because textbooks are sold like drugs.

Modern textbook sales are much akin to the pharmaceutical sales model where the publishers spend their time wooing the decision makers to adopt their product. In this case, it’s professors instead of doctors. Unlike drugs though, there’s no textbook insurance to cover the out of pocket costs.

“Professors are not price-sensitive and they then assign and students have no say,” said Ariel Diaz, CEO of Boundless, a free and low-cost textbook publisher.


How can students not break the bank buying textbooks? Many of them are renting the digital versions via Chegg, TextbookRush, Amazon or Google. Not only can you rent it from these companies but you can purchase it outright from these same companies or dedicated educational ecosystems like Coursesmart and save 60% off the print price.

It makes really good sense to buy the digital version right? I mean you save a ton of money, but students are notoriously persistent to the entire premise. For example, a recent pilot study from the University of Washington showed that about 25% of students who were given free versions of digital textbooks still went out and purchased a physical copy of the same book.

Hewlett Packard also conducted a survey last winter, talking to 527 students at San Jose State. 57% of the respondents said they prefer the standard textbook, while a paltry 21% said they prefer the digital variant.

Whether you buy an overpriced textbook or rent one, there is a secret way to save some money. In 2009 a new IRS provision was established that that allows students and parents to qualify for a $2,500 textbook and course material tax credit by filling out IRS form 8863 and filing it with their taxes.

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