As any empty-pocketed student (or parent) knows, the cost of college hardly ends when you’ve ponied up for tuition and room & board. Textbooks can add up quickly (just look at this list of last year’s most expensive textbooks — all over $500 — to see what we mean). At the University of Maryland at College Park, the average student will spend over $500 each semester on textbooks (whose prices have increased four times as quickly as the rate of inflation since 1994) — that’s nearly 13 percent of the cost of in-state tuition. In an attempt to stem these skyrocketing costs, Maryland is one of several states to have a law mandating affordable textbooks.
Prices are high in part because textbook publishers know they have a built-in market; they also tend to bundle extras — CDs, workbooks, etc. — that drive up costs even further. But some professors (and students) are taking matters into their own hands, by harnessing the power of the internet to re-sell old textbooks, and even to make their own customized textbooks at a fraction of the cost.
The Chronicle says that new services like AcademicPub, which allow profs to compile articles, case studies, reports, book chapters, and white papers into tailor-made, class-specific texts, also drive down costs by allowing students to download them as e-books. (One custom marketing text was priced at $14.95 for the digital edition, $27 for the paperback, or $45 for the hardcover). AcademicPub takes care of collecting and paying out the royalties.
Does this sound like the future of textbooks to you?