College textbook prices: up close and personal

In the year since starting this blog, I’ve posted frequently about the rising costs of college texts, including here, here, and here.

Recently I learned that it’s one thing to read articles about the issue or to hear students talk about costs; it’s another thing to actually be on the buying end.  My oldest son is starting his freshman year of college this fall, and the other day we went online to his university’s bookstore to look up his classes and corresponding books.

For his five classes, there were 9 required texts.  A couple were modestly priced paperbacks in the $15-25 range.  But three texts, for courses in economics, psychology, and statistics, had list prices in the $175-275 range.  Seriously.  An 8th edition of one such book was listed for $275 new, and over $200 used.  Had we purchased all the books through the university, the total – for one semester – would have been between $700 and $800.  I realized then that I had forgotten a key stat from an earlier post:  the average college student spends over $1100 per year on textbooks.  And my kid appeared to be striving to be above average.

We instead pursued some of the many online options and found much more reasonable prices.  Still steep, but not outrageous — 9 books at an average price of a bit under $50 per book.

The experience left me thinking again about textbook authors who live in $24M homes.  And their publishers.

I’m delighted that for each of my classes this fall (thanks partly to AC, and partly to Ted’s Mathematical Reasoning text), students can have the book electronically for free, or get a print copy for basically the cost of photocopying.



  1. […] annual complaints about textbook costs are at least getting […]

  2. suevanhattum · · Reply

    That author has recently died (last December).

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