I can think about all of the books I have – some of them being bigger than some of my textbooks for class – yet they remain substantially cheaper than the textbooks that I own currently. So why is is that textbooks, in all of their “prestige,” so freaking expensive? Frankly, I don’t want to spend another eight hundred next semester. It’s brutal and took most of my savings.

The expensive little buggers. (photo by Alexis Fam Photography)

The expensive little buggers. (photo by Alexis Fam Photography)

Mental Floss suggests that:

“Publishers would explain that textbooks are really expensive to make. Dropping over a hundred bucks for a textbook seems like an outrage when you’re used to shelling out $10 or $25 for a novel, but textbooks aren’t made on the same budget. Those hundreds of glossy colorful pages, complete with charts, graphs, and illustrations, cost more than putting black words on regular old white paper. The National Association of College Stores has said that roughly 33 cents of every textbook dollar goes to this sort of production cost, with another 11.8 cents of every dollar going to author royalties. Making a textbook isn’t cheap.”

The article then goes on to say that it’s not quite as simple as being solely production costs:

“In the simplest economic terms, the high price of textbooks is symptomatic of misaligned incentives, not exorbitant production costs. Students hold the reasonable stance that they’d like to spend as little money as possible on their books. Students don’t really have the latitude to pick which texts they need, though.

Professors pick the course materials, and faculty members don’t have any strong incentive to be price sensitive when it comes to selecting textbooks. Their out-of-pocket expense is zero whether the required texts cost $100 or $300, so there’s no real barrier to heaping on more reading material. If a student needs Class X to graduate, they’ll likely need to procure the required texts. This lack of cost-control incentives for professors is a major reason that at some point in college, everyone meets the expensive textbook’s even more maddening cousin, the Expensive Textbook You Never Even Use.”

But there is hope for the future, because, as I quote from the same article:

“Luckily for students, some external forces are placing downward pressure on textbook prices. Last year a new federal law went into effect that requires publishers to notify professors of textbook prices and schools to inform students of necessary course texts during registration. Online textbook rental companies could help replace outright ownership, as could electronic reserve programs. It may take a while, but in the future college students may be able to do the required reading without emptying their wallets.”

Wow, honestly, I had no clue about that. I wonder what the law was called and why they didn’t link to it. Nonetheless, textbooks are, for now, every student’s pain-in-the-butt to deal with. To read the rest of the article by Mental Floss, click here.