Any economics textbook will tell readers that it’s not cost effective to buy a $250 book for one semester when the previous version is available at half the price.

Textbook requirements place students in a financial bind, as total costs for some can exceed $1,000 in one semester, and no buyback or resale program is generous enough to cushion that blow. In answer to an overpriced market for new editions, professors that set reading lists should take it upon themselves to reduce the burden on students.

Publishers enjoy a unique advantage in that students have almost no choice in the textbooks they purchase. Within an economic environment that includes a captive set of buyers, they have incentive to charge hundreds of dollars for books and other required materials, and students have no choice but to pay up or be disadvantaged in the classroom.

With this in mind, the textbook industry cranks out new editions at an absurd pace. More often than not, these pricey revisions feature nothing more than simple photo or layout changes that are unessential to a student’s ability to grasp course material. Not only are these new editions marked up beyond their content value, but they depreciate the worth of prior versions. These new editions take more money from students than the value added by any revision.

The ability to lower textbook costs for students lies not in their hands but in the hands of professors. Because professors determine course work, they can assign books that leave more money in our pockets. If the newest editions don’t contain ground-breaking material in the field, courses should not require them.

Furthermore, when possible, professors should put selections of pages online when textbooks in their entirety are not used for the class. It’s frustrating to buy a new book at full price to discover that only a single chapter is assigned.

Professors were students once, too. They can and should understand that students shouldn’t have to take textbook costs into consideration when choosing their courses.

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