Escalating Textbook Prices Hit Students' Wallets
As the spring semester begins, students hurriedly scamper to the college bookstores to wait in arduous lines for their textbooks.
While students are forced to shrug off the inconvenience of waiting and the high costs of textbooks out of necessity, some say that textbook publishers are taking advantage of students for that very reason.
According to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, the National State Public Interest Research Groups organization claims that publishers have raised the cost of textbooks by 62 percent in the last decade, as stated in a report titled "Ripoff 101:2nd edition" released earlier this month.
"This is probably the only time a store has a line this long that isn't because it's having a half off sale," said sophomore Paul Thacker while standing in line at the Santa Monica College bookstore, "and I know that nothing I'm buying today is worth how much I'm paying out for it."
The pressure being put on textbook publishers is out of growing contempt for the rising price of higher education.
Publishers were quick to counter- attack, claiming that the report was flawed because of poor sampling methods used by the organization.
The activist organization surveyed 59 colleges and universities and looked at the five most widely purchased texts at those schools.
The study reported that the average U.S. college student spends approximately $900 on textbooks in a year, which comes as little surprise to some students.
"I think my total was $380 on three books, one of which was used. I got my English book from a friend that took it last semester so that saved me some money," said Will Lasker.
Publishers also argue that the cost of textbooks has risen slower than the cost of college tuition and fees over the past decade. At SMC, the cost of tuition was raised from $11 a unit to $26 in just the past year.
The activist organization estimates that the cost of textbooks would be less if publishers didn't include unnecessary supplements like CDs, DVDs and instructional workbooks that are often excluded from class lectures and exams.
Though buying used textbooks can save students some money, the activist organization criticizes that publishers release newer editions every year to eliminate the sale of used books and raise prices with the inflating market.
The activist organization's study suggests that the rise in textbook costs over the last decade is more than double that of the rest of consumer products in the same period.
"It's kind of like the way movie theaters sell candy and popcorn," elaborates Thacker.
"They know you can't really go elsewhere so they hike prices and smile when they take your money," he said.