Benjamin$ for books

Price versus value for textbooks today

Remember the good ole days in high school when books were given to students for free by teachers? Well, those days are long gone.

According to the National Association of College Stores, the average college student spends over 600 dollars on textbooks every year. In addition to this, the Huffington Post states that college textbook prices are rising faster than inflation, healthcare costs and housing prices.

“I believe the prices of textbooks are too high,” said Ferris pre-pharmacy senior Ryan Larson. “Especially for the amount you use them and the fact you can usually get the same resources from the web.”

Students aren’t the only ones who share this belief. Andrew Peterson, Ferris Instructional Technologist in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning also sees how online resources can be used in the classroom.

“Viewing the textbook as an exclusive source for classroom content is a dated model that ignores the overwhelming volumes of academic content that is freely available online,” Peterson said. “College textbooks are priced as though they are the single source for content when we are in one of the most content rich environments the world has ever known.”

Assessment Librarian Stacy Anderson agreed.

“We have more information readily available than at any other time in history,” Anderson said.

The reason for the high prices of textbooks is the limited amount of companies who make them. According to James Koch, who conducted an economic analysis of the textbook market, five publishers are in control of nearly 90 percent of the entire textbook market.

“There are fewer textbook publishers than general publishers. To be fair, textbooks do probably cost more to publish than a regular book because of the illustrations, graphs, charts, and so on, but students are also a reliable, captive audience, so there isn’t a great incentive to lower the prices or compete with the small number of textbook publishers,” Koch said.

Textbooks are a necessity when it comes to doing well in class. According to a graphic of a student survey taken by Florida Virtual Campus provided by Kristy Motz, Reference Librarian and Coordinator of Library Instruction, 64 percent of students at some point do not purchase a textbook due to it’s cost while 49 percent take fewer classes for the same reason.

“If the instructor makes extensive use of the textbook for content delivery in the class, not having the resource could have a detrimental impact on the students’ educational experience,” Peterson said.

Some professors try to ease the pain of steep textbook prices by providing materials for their students.

“I have seen students struggle because they didn’t purchase the textbook. That’s one reason we have made the communication theories textbook [faculty member] Paul Zube and I are writing free to students via Blackboard,” said Ferris professor Sandra Alspach. “We professors need to become more creative in designing our own materials and stop depending on the publishing companies to tell us what material our students should read and study. With Blackboard, it’s really easy to make materials available, free of charge to students.”

Students also have ways of saving money when it comes to buying books.

“I spent over 300 dollars on books as a freshman,” said Ferris pre-optometry senior Shelby Alda. “I have made friends with people in pre-opt and we all hand down books to one another or trade them.”

“We have realized that we’re all going through it together so, we might as well help each other out,” Alda said.