“Custom” Textbooks – Robbing Students One Page At a Time


Over the years, students have tried to cope with the continuous rising costs of college textbooks by finding new tricks to save money. These once innovative ideas include buying used textbooks, renting, or simply not buying the required texts at all. It seems as though we have hit a plateau and are out of newer and cheaper ideas. Well, the college textbook industry has taken notice and capitalized by creating a new way to combat these money saving tactics.

Enter, custom required textbooks.

What’s that you ask? The custom textbook industry is where textbook publishers work together with (mostly) major universities to create custom, school-specific editions of generic texts. And with the schools labeling these textbooks as “required,” students’ textbook money saving tricks become virtually extinct.

What is even worse about these new custom textbooks is that some academic departments share the profits from these textbooks with the publishing companies. Seems kind of immoral and unethical, doesn’t it?

In the article, As Textbooks Go ‘Custom,’ Students Pay, author, John Hechinger, cites an example from the University of Alabama:

“[The University] requires freshman composition students at its main campus to buy a $59.35 writing textbook titled “A Writer’s Reference,” by Diana Hacker. The spiral-bound book is nearly identical to the same “A Writer’s Reference” that goes for $30 in the used-book market and costs about $54 new. The only difference in the Alabama version: a 32-page section describing the school’s writing program — which is available for free on the university’s Web site. This version also has the University of Alabama’s name printed across the top of the front cover, and a notice on the back that reads: “This book may not be bought or sold used.”

The reasoning behind this “genius” idea? Textbook companies and college officials claim that these custom textbooks provide “needed resources for academic departments and more-useful materials for students.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t even have so called “materials” in my classes. I also think that our already hefty tuition and fees bill and regular high-priced textbooks pays for the departments’ resources.

I will admit, publishers were creative in coming up with this exclusive textbook program. Only requiring a custom textbook does stop the sale of used textbooks. And in some cases, students aren’t even allowed to resell these books even in AUTHORIZED campus bookstore buyback programs due to the resell prohibition. If the campus bookstore won’t even buy them back, then I am led to believe that this is truly an unethical practice simply screwing college students over.


What will these textbook publishing companies come up with next?! And when will universities and professors be on our side??


To eBook, or not to eBook: that is the question.

Have you ever wonder why eBooks are so expensive? I mean, they are digit and available on the Internet, so why do they have to cost so much?

An article by Michael Hyatt, former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World – a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller – answered the question: Why are eBooks so expensive?

Michael Hyatt broke it down into three reasons for why they are so expensive. They are the following:

  1. Adjusted retail price. The price you pay is roughly half of how much it would cost you to buy the physical book. In addition, the way retailers that buy the eBook is going to shift to “the agency model” – the publisher sets the price and the “agent” (retailer/buyer) would get a “commission” from the publisher.
    1. For example, if an eBook is being sold for $10, then the publisher will gain a net of approximately 70%; thus, they will gain a net profit of $7.
  2. Cost of physical manufacturing and distribution don’t cost that much. Yup, you heard it, the cost of physically making the book doesn’t cost that much. In fact, it only make up around 12% of the total retail price of the book.

So, why are eBooks so darn expensive? It’s not like they cost much to begin with. Well, because of the third reason:

  1. The three new costs:
    1. Digital preparation. The books must be scanned or manually keyed in, and then they have to be formatted to work on all the various eReaders. If you think that’s a lot of work, the last step of preparation is collecting and adding all relevant metadata so customers could easily search for them.
    2. Quality assurance. The time-consuming process quality assurance a.k.a. “QAing”. Each page has to be rendered correctly.
    3. Digital distribution. The files have to be distributed to the various eRetaliers. With more eRetailers than Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, they each also have their own individual protocol to how to upload the book.

So, the new costs are initially the reasons why eBooks cost so much. The process of making it and distributing it is time consuming and costly. You might believe that you’re getting a great deal by buying the eBook but, when you think about it, you’re not. You’re basically paying the same for the hard, physical copy of the book.

We already pay so much for college. Why do we have to pay more for eBooks? The books that would be cheaper due to the fact that they’re not the physical copy and they are easily accessible on the web. So, next time you need to buy a textbook, ask yourself this: Is the price I’m paying worth it?

If you would like to read the article published by Michael Hyatt, click here.

If you would like to learn more about “the agency model”, click here.



Picture for thought.


Are you serious!!! That’s soo unfair and not true!!

Image    Why do college textbooks cost so much? According to Ethan Trex author of “Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?,” textbooks are expensive because publishing a college textbook full of graphs, charts, illustrations, cost more than just a simple $10 Nicholas Sparks novel. That’s outrageous!! Publishers are you really going to charge college students for every single “.”?  That’s unfair; a majority of us college students are not dependent of our parents for money and can’t afford to pay $100- $200 for books.

They are simple out to get our money! Ethan Trex mentions that since professors choose the textbook, students don’t really have a say in what texts to pick. Although that is correct, professors need to be a bit more lenient with their students. I meant if you know you’re not going to use the textbook and only some articles, why not just scan and upload them as PDFs?  I believe publishers purposely target and market to professors. In “Why Do College Books Cost So Much?” Allen Grove mentions that, publishers make no money when used books are sold instead of new ones. That must be the reason why when we try selling our books to BookHolders they offer us less than what we bought them for! Publishers are smart, and make new editions every year, making the professor change the textbook. Meaning we’re busted and have to buy a new book. We can no longer use our friend’s book from last semester because it’s no longer “good.” That’s crazy, publishers change like one sentence in the old edition and add a couple of sentences here and we college students have to pay! Publishers are the ones adding the extra stuff to the pages, why not have them pay it!

It’s absurd!! Ethan Trex mentions in his article that “…many students aren’t all that price sensitive…” that’s false! Not all college students depend on mommy and daddy for money. As a working college student, it hurts my pocket every time I see those three-digit book prices. Not only that, but to know that you’re giving up your break to work just to pay off a simple “.”or new edition makes college textbook prices unfair. Publishers should be the ones paying a majority of these book cost and not the students. We didn’t tell you to publish the book with so many colors and pretty pictures!


Typical parent-college student conversation about money for textbooks!