"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

August 24, 2006

So you think the price of gasoline is ridiculously high? I just started a college course for the first time in about 2+ decades and when I went to the campus bookstore to purchase the class text, I was shocked. Which brings me to this article:

Students Seek Alternatives as Textbook Prices Mount
by Shreema Mehta

Aug. 23 – A recent study finds that the college textbook industry is driving up costs and restricting cheaper options and suggests alternatives students can use to save money.

The report, released by the members of the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs), a network of campus-based advocacy groups, said textbook companies are taking advantage of a skewed market in which students are forced to buy books assigned by professors.

Students spend an average of about $900 on textbooks every year, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO also found the price for books had tripled between 1986 and 2004, growing at twice the rate of inflation.

The Student PIRGs point out that “the party that orders textbooks – faculty – is not the same party that must purchase textbooks – students – removing price as a primary consideration in the ordering process.” The group also notes that students have no way to “exert their own market power” by finding competitors with lower prices.

The Student PIRGs also criticized publishers for frequently releasing new editions – often without adding significant educational value – and thereby squelching a used-book market. Companies also add CD-ROMs and other supplementary “bells and whistles” that drive up costs.

Some companies offer low-cost alternatives to their texts such as softcover, spiral-bound books or online versions. But the Student PIRGs found that the 22 frequently assigned textbooks cost an average of $131.44. Less than half of these have less-expensive counterparts, and those ring up at an average of $65.32 apiece....

The article continues with some suggestions about money-saving alternatives, including an online book-swapping organization.

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