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Tagesarchive: August 28, 2017

Why Textbook Publishers Are Running Scared: Survey Shows College Textbook Spending Dropped 17% Since 2007

When textbook publishers filed copyright infringement suits against third-party sellers (and Follett, even), the motivation was obvious. Just ask anyone: non-fiction sales are down (like O’Reilly said) so the publishers are trying to remove low-priced and sub-par competition from the market.

New survey data shows that college students are spending less on textbooks than ever before. The Student Watch report from the National Association of College Stores showed that students spent an average of $579 on their required course materials, down $122 from $701 in 2007.

That’s a drop of 17% in a decade where textbook prices increased faster than the cost of healthcare.

The complete report is behind a paywall. You can read a regurgitation of the highlights at PW, or the highlights themselves at the NACS website.

Two details that caught my eye were the increase in the use of free and paid digital course materials:

  • nearly a quarter (23%) of students who purchased at least one course material bought a digital version, an increase of 8% from fall 2015.
  • In spring 2016, 25% of students surveyed reported using a free method to obtain what they needed for class, up from 19% the previous year.

Surprisingly, student are still more likely to use the college bookstore than even Amazon when buying textbooks.

I strongly suspect that is misleading, though; while I used the college bookstore when I was a student a decade ago I spent most of my money elsewhere. The current trend of B&N Edu replacing its college bookstores with gift shops, and colleges outsourcing bookstore operations would also suggest that actual spending at college bookstores has declined.