College Textbook Cost Solution For Students?

A lot has been made regarding the high cost of textbooks and the financial burden this poses on college students who need to buy them. There needs to be some sort of solution where the students are not spending all of their means on textbooks, but still feel they can turn to their school bookstores for these purchases. Possibly, could it be as simple as selling just the pages to the books, but not in the traditional hardcover, bound manner we have all come to know as the dreaded five-pound textbook.

My Experience with the College Textbook Game

Although I was in college about a decade ago, not much has changed in the realm of textbook pricing. I remember vividly, paying over $300 for a macroeconomics book that was sold with a CD of case studies. To keep the book and CD together, the publisher had shrunk-wrapped the entire bundle. During the course, the professor referenced the book once. Of course, as the diligent student, I unwrapped the book to view that one page in that one chapter he was referencing. By unwrapping that book and CD bundle, my book was now worth $30 upon post-semester buy-back. Had I not unwrapped it, I would have at least been given double that! And we never even needed the CD. I cannot tell you how many times this example happened to me throughout my four years in school.

One Solution to Keeping the Costs Down

All textbooks would be sold printed on letter size paper, which is three-hole punched. For ease in retailing, the pages would still be shrunk-wrapped with any other supplemental materials, such as CD’s and reference guides. The student then buys a three-ring poly binder to put the materials in. Not only is this a cheaper option for the student, it is easier to handle and transport as well. Students carrying a heavier bag for the day, could take out only the chapter(s) needed for that day of classes and studying, rather than toting five binders of materials in the bags all day long.

Had I been given the opportunity/chance/choice to buy my books at a much reduced cost and also been responsible for purchasing a three-ring binder to put the book in, I would have gladly jumped on-board. Not only would my expenses out-of-pocket been greatly decreased at the start of the semester, it would have also saved me from the gut-punch after the course was over, when I found out my pristine-condition book was worth 10% of what I paid for it just 10 weeks prior. I think vehicle depreciation is even “better” than that?!?

How Students and College Bookstores Can Mutually Benefit

Stores could sell the textbooks with binders, as a bundle. After a semester is complete, the student could transfer the “book” to a larger storage binder, and separate different books within the same subject with index dividers. They could use the slimmer binder to keep the new “book” during the current semester.

For bookstores, this will also serve as a reminder that students can use the bookstore as their main resource to buying school supplies and convenience items, not just textbooks. The bookstore at my university had mostly course books, and all school items, like binders, notebooks and apparel were merchandised in a different part of the store. Instead of hunting for what supplies I needed there, I frequently headed to the nearest superstore to purchase these supplies.

Now, I went to school in Chicago, so this meant going back near my home in the suburbs to make these purchases.  But friends in more traditional “college towns” did the same thing.  They found the nearest superstore and went there to buy supplies.

I realize that some publishers already offer the paper-only, unbound option, but what about making this the industry norm, rather than the exception?

Have thoughts on solutions to the college textbook problem? Have a different cost-cutting solution? Please comment below.

2 Responses to “College Textbook Cost Solution For Students?”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Having two kids in college I know what you mean. That is my I sell so much of the products that you promote at Thanks again.

  2. bookstore chains Says:

    bookstore chains…

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