Textbook Costs Soar: Professors Consider Lesser-Expensive Options

2By Joaquin Mojica

Costs for textbooks have nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Some professors consider expenses for books to ease burden on students.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, empowered by Congress’ Higher Education Opportunity Act to monitor publishers and textbook costs, reports that new textbook prices increased 82 percent between 2002 and 2012.

According to that report, some of the reasons for those increases include the following: printing of customized textbooks, supplementary materials, interactive systems such a CD-Rom and online activities and quizzes, among the costs of printing and distributing.

The most expensive part in manufacturing a textbook is the paper alone, as that accounts for more than one-third of the costs, according to a major publisher Oxford University Press’ website. Other important factors include quality of the pages, number of photos it contains, royalty rates given to authors and number of books printed.

Professor Linda Gannon, lead faculty of Department of English at College of Southern Nevada, says, “Publishers and booksellers are for-profit entities, so I feel that those of us involved in textbook decisions must carefully weigh costs to our students against other variables when looking at textbook adoptions.”

At CSN’s North Las Vegas bookstore, books range from approximately $10 to a few hundred dollars. One of the most expensive textbooks this term is “Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences” for psychology 210 that costs $321.

Thomas Pruett, student at CSN, thinks textbooks are too expensive. He says professors should keep the same books from term to term in subjects that do not readily change such as math and language. “New editions are unnecessary.”

When it comes to CSN’s process of adapting textbooks in the classroom, Gannon says, “There are several factors influencing this decision such as alignment with course-learning outcomes, cost to students, support materials and training provided by the publisher. Our current Academic Learning Success 101 textbook was adopted for a four-year cycle, which allows students to buy it used for several semesters at a reduced cost.”

Adjunct Instructor Pamela Blunt, who teaches ALS 101 at CSN, says she teaches from the text that the department chose, which works out well for faculty and students.

There are other options for students to buy books at reduced rates.

Amazon, an online retailer, claims to offer up to 80 percent savings on used textbooks. Direct Textbook provides instant access to books on the Internet.

According to an article titled “Trends Influencing the Growth of Digital Textbooks in U.S. Higher Education” by Rob Reynolds, the growth of the digital textbook industry will see revenues in excess of $1.5 billion in 2016. Many of CSN’s textbooks offer eBook formats, which can be a solution for lowering costs.

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