Cost of textbooks is on the rise

By Kaitlin Barr
September 13, 2007

Megan Pellegrino

The cost of textbooks has risen at twice the rate of annual inflation over the last two decades, according to a new report by the United States Government Accountability Office.

The cost of textbooks and supplies, which has become a significant factor in the total cost of college, is becoming more of a hassle for students everyday. According to the College Board website, the average cost of books and supplies for 2006-07 are as follows: for a four-year public college, an average student taking 15 credits will spend an estimated $942. An average student at a four-year private college will spend an estimated $946 as well.

The question is, are textbooks that expensive or are professors not taking the price into consideration when looking into textbooks for students?

“I absolutely look at the price before ordering texts,” Asst. English Professor, Dr. Paul Wright said. “I try to use reasonably priced paperbacks when possible, unless I have no other choice.”

Some professors look at prices before content, others however, look at content before price. “When choosing a textbook, I am first and foremost concerned with the quality of information and appropriateness for the students I teach,” Fine Arts-Music professor Dr. Adeline Bethany said. “Usually, all the books being considered are ‘in the same ballpark’ so it does not impact significantly on my selection.”

Buying textbooks online versus in the bookstore can also account for how much money you are going to spend on textbooks. According to the College Store Industry Financial Report, the average gross margin on new textbooks is currently 22.4 percent. The gross margin is the difference between what the college store paid for the textbook and the amount they charge the student. After the store expenses have been paid, a college store’s profit is 4.4 cents for every dollar’s worth of new textbooks sold.

In an article posted recently in the Daily Local out of Chester County, Larry Davis, a manager at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at Immaculata University, said that Barnes & Noble at Immaculata buys back books for 50 percent of the price of the book. If that sounds interesting, other Barnes & Nobles do this as well, just check into the one nearest to your area.

“I’m amazed at how expensive textbooks have become,” Asst. professor of mathematics, Dr. John Brown said. “When I was in college almost 30 years ago, my books were about 20 dollars a piece, which I thought was a lot back then. Those same books would sell for over 100 dollars today.”

Websites such as or can save you sometimes half the money you would have spent in the bookstore. If ordering off-line, you are risking the chance of getting a beat-up and not-so-nice text. That may not matter to some students, but to some it does.

Even professors remember the feeling of having to pay a lot of money for textbooks. “As a college student, I would ‘freak out’ at the price of textbooks,” Asst. biology professor Dr. David Dunbar said. “Most of my summer job money went to paying for them.”

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Kaitlin Barr

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