Textbook costs for college students are rising. Over the past 20 years, textbook costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation. Books in some fields today cost more than $100 each.
What to expect. If you attend a four-year public college, you can expect to pay about $900 per year for new textbooks and supplies. This figure was obtained from a 2005 study conducted by the Government Accountability Office.
Why the increase? Part of what makes textbooks so expensive is that publishers update them often. Also, textbooks today now come with CDs, workbooks, and online tools. Publishers charge more for these additions, which many faculty members require students to use.
Reduce your textbook costs
To keep textbook costs low, try the following:
- Look for lower-cost electronic versions of books.
- Buy used versions of textbooks at your school bookstore or online. Used books typically cost 25% less than new versions. When buying online, remember to factor in shipping costs.
- Join a book share group on campus. These groups help students to share or trade books with each other. If your campus doesn’t have a book share group, investigate starting one through www.campusbookswap.org.
- Use copies of books available on reserve at your school library.
When purchasing used copies of books, be sure you have the correct book and not an outdated version. Books are marked with a 10-digit number known as the International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. The ISBN can be found above the book's bar code. Often your professor will provide you with the ISBN of the book they are suggesting you purchase for the class.