Textbook Prices Vary Widely Between Campus Bookstore, Online Options

Seven years ago, a Connecticut Board of Governors for High Education study revealed that only 58 percent of the state’s higher education faculty were aware of the cost of the textbooks they selected for their courses.  While changes in the textbook industry, the increased availability of electronic textbooks, and the development of a textbook rental program at most institutions may have improved awareness, there are two certainties that remain.  Textbooks remain expensive at traditional college bookstores, but there are alternatives – and students are finding them. A report published this week by the student newspaper at UConn, The Daily Campus, showed the prices of a single textbook from four different retailers, and compared the purchase and rental options available to students.  The graph accompanying the story compared the price differences, from prominent retailers including the UConn Co-Op Bookstore, Amazon, Chegg and Half.com.1606298843

The textbook used for the price comparison, Introductory Chemistry Essentials (4th Ed.), is a frequent purchase among UConn undergraduates because it is a required textbook for CHEM 1122, a prerequisite for higher-level science courses.

The College Board (the organization responsible for the SAT exam, among other initiatives) has said the average student at a public four year college should expect to spend over one thousand dollars a year on textbooks and course materials. According to the American Enterprise Institute, textbook prices have increased at a faster rate than tuition.

In The Daily Campus report, to buy the textbook new and unused, the UConn Co-Op Bookstore charges $80.41 over the Amazon price, which was the second-priciest option.  The Bookstore charges $110.43 more than Half.com, the least expensive option.  As for renting the textbook, the UConn Co-Op is $45.91 more than Amazon, the second-priciest option. It costs $68.03 more than Chegg, which is the least expensive option.

It was recently reported that New York University has been experiencing an annual decline in textbook sales at its campus bookstore of about 5 percent each year since 2008, as students use less expensive alternatives to purchase books needed for their classes.

(chart prepared by The Daily Campus)