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The Value of Your Dollar

Costs related to textbooks rising faster than inflation

by Published: Feb 13, 2013

The bat­tle between text­book pub­lish­ers and sell­ers has left stu­dents’ pock­et­books black and blue.

“In past semes­ters I’ve spent as much as $800 on text­books,” Ferris senior nurs­ing and health care sys­tems admin­is­tra­tion stu­dent Cory Tepatti said.

Tepatti, who once spent $300 on an anatomy and phys­i­ol­ogy text­book, has tran­si­tioned to rent­ing this semester.

Textbook costs are 812 per­cent higher than they were 30 years ago, accord­ing to the American Enterprise Institute. This fig­ure has soared over the rate of infla­tion, the rise of tuition and even new home prices over the same period.

“The pub­lisher sets the price; we have no say in the price or even the mate­r­ial,” Manager of Great Lakes Book and Supply Lynn Anderson said.

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), 77 cents on the dol­lar goes directly to text book pub­lish­ers. In com­par­i­son, 21 cents on the dol­lar is deposited to the seller.

Great Lakes Book Supply has a focus on used text­books in a proac­tive effort to keep costs man­age­able for stu­dents, with 80 per­cent of text­books in its inven­tory being pre-owned.

Anderson said pub­lisher greed is the pri­mary cul­prit. She also said pub­lish­ers come out with new books fre­quently in order to intro­duce new rev­enue streams.

“They have added CDs, then they have added access to web­sites along with the book, so you have $120 tied into a text­book that’s use­less. There’s a lot of smoke and mir­rors going on,” Anderson said.

NACS has esti­mated that the aver­age col­lege stu­dent ponies up over $1,100 for required books in a given year. At Ferris, this fig­ure can equate to over 10 per­cent of a student’s finan­cial liability.

The sale of text­books is a bil­lion dol­lar indus­try. The reliance of col­lege text­books is a main­stay in many large busi­nesses includ­ing Barnes and Noble.

Last year, Barnes and Noble sold over $1.5 bil­lion worth of text­books, which added a $3.9 mil­lion gross profit for the pub­licly traded giant, accord­ing to the company’s 2012 sales report.

Currently, there are 647 Barnes and Noble stores asso­ci­ated with col­le­giate busi­ness across the coun­try, one of which is located in the Rankin Center. This ven­ture of the cor­po­ra­tion has con­tin­ued to be the most prof­itable sec­tor in cap­i­tal invest­ments, with the high­est per­cent of oper­at­ing profit.

The media rela­tions employee for Barnes and Noble did not respond to inquiries.

The com­pany also offers to rent text­books, which are due back a week before finals week. The buyer will spend less than the cost of buy­ing the text­book but will not get any mon­e­tary return.

“I rented text­books this semes­ter and it’s about $5 to $10 cheaper. I’m not going to keep these text­books; it’s kind of like rent­ing an apart­ment,” Tepatti said.

Anderson is weary of this method, as the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing a book thrusts the full retail price directly on the student.

“What you’re pay­ing is less in the long run if you buy a text­book. If you lose your text­book you’re on the hook for the whole retail price,” Anderson said.

If rent­ing is not your pre­ferred method, stu­dents can opt to try their luck online or invest in new tech­nol­ogy such as the E-book to keep prices moderate.

In a world where tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly inno­vat­ing, the role of text­books in the class­rooms­may change. Only time will tell if the elec­tronic ver­sion is bet­ter than a print edition.