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The ABCs of Textbook Economics. Together, We Can Help Our Students Save Money on Textbooks

Student PictureWith the cost of higher education continuing to rise unabated, students and their parents need to find ways of reducing out-of-pocket expenses. One of the easiest solutions to this problem exists in the area of textbook purchasing and buyback.

Faculty members play a crucial role in keeping down the costs students incur when buying course materials and in increasing their chances of being able to recoup a greater part of this investment back.

Help students reduce their out-of-pocket expenses by:

• Getting textbook orders in as early as possible – this helps us plan our buyback quantities better, ultimately returning more money to our students. In addition, this helps us ensure we have sufficient used texts, saving students an average of 25% over the cost of new books.

Key Fact: Bundling is the main reason textbook prices are rising• Avoiding customized texts – often, these texts can’t be bought back and are rarely recycled. For example, a community college recently required a text that was customized only with a page informing students that the edition had been customized for the school – all other pages were identical to the standard edition. Due to this customization, the bookstore was unable to secure used copies of the text.

• Not requiring new editions that have only minimal content changes – if previous editions are still usable, they can be purchased as used texts, which cost an average of 58% less than new ones. According to a recent national survey, 40% of faculty report that new editions are “rarely” to “never” justified. In addition, the average time between editions is now only 3.8 years.

• Avoiding texts bundled with additional materials, such as CD-ROMs, etc. – this forces students to purchase new texts at premium prices, even though bundled materials often go unused. In fact, wholesale textbook prices have risen almost 33% since 1998 (as opposed to 18% for trade books). Some of this increase is undoubtedly attributed to bundling, which now affects almost half of all new textbooks sold.

• Avoiding requiring texts in which only one or a few chapters are needed – this means fewer texts to buy for a particular course.


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