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Textbook Publishers: Battling False Facts?

This is the second part of a three-part blog series exploring the possible causes of high textbook prices. Price gouging by textbook publishers is often cited as the reason that textbook prices are sky high. Here, we present the textbook publishers side of the story on why textbooks are so expensive. Are textbook publishers really gouging college students? You be the judge.

From a Publisher's Standpoint

Everyone always blames the publisher. Why are textbooks so expensive? Because the "evil" publishers raise the prices, print unnecessary editions, bundle textbooks with useless CDs—all to price gouge the struggling student who is just trying to get an education. The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a public advocacy group, is one proponent of such views.

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), however, the PIRG ignores the facts and uses figures that no independent research can back up. "PIRG just doesn’t let the facts get in their way," asserts Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the AAP.

Here are some examples of PIRG discrepancies according to the AAP:

PIRG: Textbooks are sold for less in overseas markets.
AAP: Yes, books sold overseas are cheaper, but that is because they are priced to the individual markets. These sales, while small, help publishers recoup some of their investment in producing a textbook. Without overseas sales, the entire price of production would fall on U.S. students, forcing up the price they pay.

PIRG: Pearson’s new 6th Campbell’s Biology was found to be 97 percent more expensive than a used copy.
AAP: New textbooks–like new cars and most other consumer products–cost more when they are new! On average, used textbooks are sold in bookstores at 75 percent of the price of a new book.

PIRG: Thomas Learning should produce an online version of their Calculus textbook.
AAP Assertion: Publishers have produced hundreds of online books, but there is virtually no demand for online textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores.

The AAP maintains that they are just a business giving the consumer (i.e. professors and students) what they want and need. They are not in the business of making outrageous profits. Professors have free choice to choose the textbook for their classes. According to a study by third-party researchers Zogby International, 38 percent of college professors said they were satisfied with how frequently new textbook editions were released, or that they were not released frequently enough.

Ed. Note: Check back for the conclusion of our three-part blog–an explanation from your college bookstore addressing why textbooks are so expensive. Then you can be the judge as to the real reason why textbooks are so expensive.

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Sources:

Hildebrand, Bruce. “AAP Press Center.” AAP-The Association of American Publishers. 25 APR 2005. Association of American Publishers. 27 Jul 2007 http://publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2005_April/April_01.htm.

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