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Are college textbooks reasonably priced?

BoingBoing has a very interesting article: Prescription for consumers challenging academic textbook cartels that begins to address the issues surrounding over-priced college text books that students are being forced to pay for if they adhere to the “required text” portions of their class schedule.

I recall from the mid-1980s that many texts were reasonably priced and useful, but many others were clearly just padding to help line the pockets of certain professors and their friends (back then it was clearly a minority of greedy faculty, and most faculty were very considerate of the costs and needs of students). I have nieces in college now and some of the class requirements for textbooks are extremely suspect. Rather than individual greed, it looks more like a market manipulated by slick corporate handling of the entire business… for profit margins any business manager would be thrilled by.

The comparison with prescription drugs as a racket is interesting. That is another market where the chooser does not bear the brunt of the costs; and it is another market where the costs have spiraled more quickly than other markets and where the profit margins are … well, gross.

I have often thought that electronic book readers could serve the markets for throw away books like magazines, newspapers, and college texts; but the sad truth is there is no incentive for text book publishers to switch to electronic systems nor to reduce costs. We (as purchasing parents and relatives of students) will have to force this issue by organizing and forcing at least more circumspect behavior if not public regulation.

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