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How The Used Textbook Market Is Marginalized By Interests Adverse To Those Of University Students
College and university students have a love-hate relationship with textbooks. On the one hand, students can get high marks for mastering the material presented in these books. On the other hand, textbooks are notoriously expensive, costing up to $200 for a single book. Yet the fact is that students have to buy the books to get the best grades. It’s a fact that the multi-billion dollar textbook industry uses to capitalize on students’ reliance on textbooks.
Many people suspect that textbooks are overpriced, that is, the retail price far exceeds the cost of producing and distributing the books. Many believe that publishers pocket the vast majority of profits themselves. The intuition of these individuals may be plausible for the following reasons.
First, new editions of books on secular subjects are published at least every two years. For example, the origin of the calculation dates back to 1800 BC. And although the discipline developed from this time until the 19th century AD, there has been no revolutionary development in this discipline of mathematics since the beginning of the 20th century. The same is often true for several math subjects, including statistics and basic math at the college level.
Therefore, by releasing new editions of textbooks almost every year, publishers attempt to disrupt the market for used textbooks. However, publishers would not be able to force these new editions of textbooks on students were it not for college and university professors who generally require students to purchase the latest edition of textbooks, even if the difference between the current edition and the previous edition is the rearrangement of a chapter of the book.
The interests of textbook publishers and professors in new editions of textbooks are therefore at odds with the interests of college and university students. Yet, this is the reality that students face today amid the skyrocketing costs of higher education.
What can students and teachers do to limit the blatant resale of books presented as new editions? Professors should ask publishers for pricing information between new and previous editions to determine if the additional cost is justifiable to students. Teachers should also ask the publisher about material changes between editions and should check the answer for themselves. Students should notify professors when they notice minor changes between current and previous versions of textbooks.
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