In this Oct. 22, 2010 file photo, student textbooks for rent sit on the shelves at the City College Bookstore in New York. Since the late-1970s, college textbook prices have risen at a pace far faster than inflation. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
College textbook prices have increased faster than tuition, health care costs and housing prices, all of which have risen faster than inflation.
College textbook prices are 812 percent higher than they were a little more than three decades ago, the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank, reports. Textbook costs have well outpaced the 559 percent increase in tuition and fees over roughly the same period.
"The 812 percent increase in the price of college textbooks since 1978 makes the run-up in house prices and housing bubble (and subsequent crash) in the 2000s seem rather inconsequential," writes University of Michigan economics professor Mark J. Perry at the AEIdeas blog, "and the nine-fold increase in textbook prices also dwarfs the increase in the cost of medical services over the last three decades."
The National Association of College Stores (NACS) says the average college student will spend $655 on textbooks each year, but with a single textbook easily costing as much as $300, that total can easily be much higher. In fact, the College Board puts the annual cost of books and materials at $1,168. Students at for-profit colleges tend to spend even more.
Roughly one-fifth of a textbook's price goes to the store where it is sold to cover personnel and operating costs, while more than three-quarters goes straight to the publisher, according to a recent article from U.S. News & World Report. The magazine broke down textbook publishing costs:
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post