Sinking Down Textbook Prices

Now that you’ve read The Evil Twin, the Seed of Satan-Digital Textbooks  and It’s just not right… you’re probably wondering, well how do we lower the cost in textbooks? Well one possible solution to lowering the cost of textbooks is by renting them. According to Tywan Miller author of College Textbook-Rental Easy Affordable Alternative for Budget Conscious College Students! “On average, a student can save upwards of 50% of the cost of purchasing their books through college textbook rental.”

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If students move towards renting textbooks instead of buying them they will spend less money. Trust me as a college student I know the feeling when you’re running low on cash and can’t afford your books.  Last fall I was running tight on money for college books and decided to rent my textbooks and saved my self-hundreds of dollars. Also, according to Tamar Lewin, “rentals give both publishers and textbook authors a way to continue earning money from their books after the first sale, something they do not get from the sale of used textbooks.”  There are other methods that students can use to waste less money on textbooks.

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Another possible way to stop spending a lot of money on books is CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLE MAN! We live in the 21st century where technology and social media are our friends. Bernard is his article in the NY Times pushes college students to go on social media and search around campus for people willing to exchange books with you. This is cutting out the middle man, “the publishing companies” and preventing them from getting a hand on our savings. This means use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to your advantage. Search on Facebook for book groups that show available books and save money!

If you want to save money, avoid campus bookstores! They should be your last resource if you can’t find the book online. For better deals I personally use Amazon.com or Half.com where I can compare prices with other vendors to get the best deal for me. This may require that you register for classes at least three weeks in advance, in order to give your book time to come in the mail. Online book shopping does help lower cost. During my sophomore year at the University of Maryland I decided to buy all my textbooks, I know super dumb idea! Anyway, it helped me realize that books are overly expensive. So I looked on Amazon and saved a lot; that sophomore year I spent roughly around $700 in books. Shopping on Amazon I wasted $439 on books and after a certain amount you qualify for free shipping!! Even better!

There are other options out there for buying textbooks and maybe some of you were aware and maybe others weren’t. I hope you have benefited from this week’s post on how to save money on college textbooks using other methods; renting, online buying, or cutting out the middle man by searching on social media for possible book exchange!

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The Evil Twin, the Seed of Satan – Digital Textbooks

A More Efficient Way for Publishers to Break Our Pockets  


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Last week, we began to discuss open-source textbooks, see YOU Have Been Cheated!, as a viable option to overpriced textbooks. After reading the post, that may have lead you to consider digital textbooks. They’re almost the same thing, right? Not really! The biggest difference is that open source textbooks are FREE and digital textbooks cost A LOT! Digital textbooks costs a few pennies less than print textbooks but can also be more expensive.

For 2 semesters I took Spanish to fulfill my language requirement for my English Education degree at UMD. Learning languages has never been my cup of tea and to make it worse the Spanish department required a supplemental online program that cost mucho dinero. There was no way around it! The school required it for all the classes. Without MySpanish Lab, the supplemental online program, it would be impossible for a student to receive above a 90% because MySpanishLab was 10% of the final grade. Even though I found the program helpful, it cost close to $100.That may not seem very expensive to you, but for me that was working a whole week at a beauty supply store making minimum wage.

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Why does it cost so much to run an online program? Even though the cartoon publisher says, “You’ve been misinformed”. I believe that there is a BAG OF MONEY that the publishers are hiding as the cartoon suggests. Even though publishers claim that digital textbooks are expensive because of the knowledge needed to create them, the Daily Illini, a publication by the University of Illinois, proves this to be inaccurate. In Johnathan Hettinger’s article, For most college professors, money made from own textbooks provides little, Hettinger reports that Bruce Levine, a professor at the University of Illinois, said that he was only making, “10 cents a copy for the 30 copies in the class [and] couldn’t believe the student’s outrage [when the students complained about him using his own textbooks]”. So where is the rest of this money going? PUBLISHERS!!!!

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Instead of publishers using online textbooks as a means to help alleviate the burden of textbook costs, they are taking part of the 77.4% they make and POCKETING IT! Don’t get me wrong, producing a book is labor intensive, but not that much!!!

In Digital Textbooks: Publishers and the Unrealized Promise, publishers are EXPOSED even further. The article says that, “The legacy publishers will tell you that they can’t make digital textbooks both high quality and affordable, but that’s not the issue. It’s that they don’t want to.” Why don’t they want to? BECAUSE they fear they will lose money. So how have they been trying to fix the problem of losing money? By offering the text for only 6 month access and providing low quality e-texts almost in hopes that students won’t purchase them.

Not only do students have to deal with the cost of e-texts, they also have to be concerned about the quality of the product. Byron Brown, a professor of economics at Michigan State University says, “Current e-texts are also a markedly inferior product. They are static PDF knockoffs of vertically oriented print pages. That means they don’t display well on most computer screens, and they resist printing an easy-to-read copy by inexplicably downsizing the fonts for home printing”.

Currently, only 15% of students choose the e-text over the print text. We have to do something about this!!!

We need to push publishers to

  • take the time to improve digital texts
  •  also push them to lower prices

Digital Textbooks don’t have to be the Evil Twin!!! Or the Seed of Satan!!!

Click here to sign Textbook Busters’ petition to publishers.

It’s just not right…

It happens year after year, semester after semester. The time for us college students to shell out loads of money on 10 various textbooks for our 5 classes. The price of textbooks seems to be following the path of our already skyrocketing student loan debt. The price of textbooks is not only and economical and political issue, but an ethical one as well. How can colleges and universities require students to buy textbooks that they can’t afford? And what exactly are these textbook companies and publishers doing to ensure that their textbooks stay in demand and their prices stay so high?

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After some investigating, I discovered some of the tactics and schemes (that I believe to be unethical) the companies use to continue to profit off of us broke college kids.

In an article exploring the dirty tricks of the trade, David Miller, founder of SlugBooks, discusses two examples. One tactic textbook companies use is creating “custom edition” textbooks. These editions are only slightly different than the generic edition and offered at larger universities. By requiring students to buy these “custom” textbooks, Universities and publishers are able to prevent the sale and trade of used textbooks. The other tactic that Miller mentions is the newer technology of online textbook components. These online platforms are mostly used for homework submission. Miller explains the reasoning behind this practice, “If you want to buy the software license without the book, it’s $80, and if you buy it with the book, it’s $100. So they’re basically producing the software for nothing, then using it to require students to buy a brand new book.”

I have personally experienced the agony of paying for one of these online textbook components. For my Spanish class, the textbook and MySpanishLab online software were both required. When my friend told me she had taken the same Spanish course and would let me use her textbook, I thought “lucky me!”

Then on the first day of class I realized I wasn’t so fortunate…

$80 later, I felt as if I hadn’t saved anything!

I’m sure you can understand and share my frustration with throwing out extra money for unnecessary textbooks. I do not think it is ethical for these companies to continue to engage in these unfair practices. As students, our voices need to be heard. Our opinions matter! If people continue to expose these tricks, maybe we will see some lower prices in the near future!