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40 Years of Rising College Textbook Prices




We all know college textbooks are expensive, but many of us don’t realize just how expensive they have truly become. Data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the cost of college textbooks has risen 1,216% in the past 40 years (1977-2017). If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is. The inflation rate over that same period only saw prices rise 404%.

textbook prices over 40 years

Even healthcare costs and housing costs, two metrics which are generally talked about as having outpaced inflation, don’t compare to the bulking up of textbook prices. Healthcare has risen 835% and housing prices 439% in the same 40-year time period.

One of the main reasons that textbook prices have been able to continue increasing a breakneck pace is that students literally have no choice but to buy them. When a professor makes a certain textbook required for the class, students are beholden to getting that specific textbook, and often even that specific edition.

New textbook editions can mean anything from revamps to simple page number and chapter reordering. While the latter seems like it might not be a big deal, it can be a major headache when a professor assigns certain reading or assignments. Even when the content has changed minimally, the difference between new and old edition textbooks can be as much as $150.

Publishers can also include one-time use access codes in textbooks, ensuring that they are almost valueless after a single student has used the book one time. This helps publishers keep control of the flow of used textbooks and makes sure that students continually buy brand new ones every semester.

This trend is disturbing for college students already battling higher costs of tuitions and the ever-growing competition for job prospects post-graduation. Textbook Spyder is proud to be leading to the way toward making college more affordable to students by making the semesterly textbook buying experience less taxing on the wallet.

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