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Discussion: (5 comments)

  1. The rising costs of textbooks is well known. And, yes, alternatives are emerging – as the author of the article notes. However, rather than simply listing lower priced alternatives, it would be more useful to readers if future articles addressed either (a) the reasons for escalating prices, (b) whether these new business models are sustainable, (c) if new alternatives offer sufficiently satisfactory replacements, or (d) all of the above.

  2. The rise didnt start in 1998 though. I bought a calculus text in 1985 and another in 1996. In 1985 it was $47 in 1996 $130. Interestingly the material was identical chapter for chapter subsection per subjection. I had to do this survey to prove my 1985 course covered the requirements for my second degree.

    The crazy thing is nothing has changed in calculus in 100 years. I found my dads calculus book from the 1950s and it was the same as well – but with fewer pictures. Why this recycled materials goes up in polynomial fashion rather than linear with inflation is beyond me.

  3. We wish it would (textbook price bubble deflate).
    One problem here is that enough uncaring or lazy professors assign the text they like without consideration of the cost, and if homework or test-preparation is based on the text, students are too scared to use an alternative text.
    After all, the other BIG cost is tuition, and one reason text book price increases were accepted is that they are small compared to tuition. After all, to you want to do less than well in a class for which you already borrowed thousands for the tuition?
    And the expensive text may come with some web site access needed for home work, thus requiring to pay through the nose for some access license, if you have bought last quarter’s used text.–
    And we can safely assume that once OpenStax or similar gets any traction, the textbook publishers will try to kill them with law suits under copyright law.
    A similar problem is with teacher-assigned calculators or software in high school: It pains me that so many poorer parents shell out for a Microsoft Office package (in addition to a laptop), when the free OpenOffice would have done, as teachers require it. (My children survived HS with OpenOffice, but thought of their dad as a cheapskate). Or an $120 calculator, where there was an equivalent $35 model from another manufacturer.

    1. Heck, this was a serious problem when I was in college in 1960. It was well known then that professors wrote the textbooks they taught from and issued new editions every other year to maximize their income. It wasn’t so much that they WANTED to gouge their students, they just looked on their students as revenue sources and felt no empathy for them. The textbook publishers are also at fault. They issue textbooks that are filled with useless graphics on glossy paper that allows them to claim they are charging for a quality product, and then triple the price. High school textbooks are terrible for this very reason, especially in math and history.

  4. You can currently buy a used copy of Mankiw for $4.29 (includes shipping) at Abebooks :-)

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