JRNM 151 Student
“I bought my textbook for a penny on Amazon,” said Arnita Marn, a non-profit administration major at Lorain County Community
College, who described how she saved a significant amount of money for a textbook that would have cost over $60 elsewhere.
NBCnews.com reports that according to NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase.
Two key factors are believed to be the cause of the rising prices: Lack of competition and no consumer choice in the purchase. Students are required to have the books they are assigned for their classes.
Five major publishers control 85% of the textbook market, according to NBC News. As a result, publishers compete on quality and features but don’t compete on price.
In 2008, the government cracked down on the deceptive practice of publishers moving a chart or chapter around and calling the book a “new edition”. They can also no longer force students to purchase shrink-wrapped books with access codes and CDs at marked up prices. Publishers have to offer them separately.
Independent surveys show that the average student spends more than $300 a semester on books, with community college students twice as likely to use financial aid for books as four-year private or public school students.
“Filing your FAFSA as soon as possible can help avoid delays in the distribution of Financial Aid,” said Margaret Cornish, a financial services assistant in the Enrollment, Financial & Career Services department at LCCC. “The idea for students is to always have their financial aid ready to go by the first day of the semester.”
Filing of FAFSA early avoids delays in processing additional documents if a student is chosen for verification.
“There are additional documents that may be required once you turn those in it may take up to two weeks processing time just because of the volume of paperwork that we accept.,” Cornish explained. She encouraged students to regularly check their to-do list after logging into their MyCampus account to know if anything is required to complete the process.
But what about students that find themselves waiting for financial aid to come through before they can afford a textbook purchase or rental?
“When students come to us and say that they’ve got to have their books and verification isn’t complete yet, we tell them to meet with their instructor to ask if there is any way materials can be made available in the library, if not to check out but at least be able to use,” Cornish continued.
“Sometimes if it’s an online textbook, you can get a two week free trial. The Pearson website will give you the two-week free trial until students have to enter the access code and pay out of pocket; this can buy students the extra time they need,” Cornish said.
Cornish suggested that students connect with other students in the classroom and share a book until they can purchase their own. She also suggested visiting ohiolink.edu, Ohio’s Academic Library Consortium.
Comparing prices between the inventories of over 150,000 booksellers including Amazon, Alibris, Half.com, AbeBooks and more, bookfinder.com makes savings of up to 80% or more on textbooks a possibility.
Commodore Books and More, LCCC’s bookstore, offers comparison shopping and buy back information on their website, bookstore.lorainccc.edu, as well.
Both Amazon and Campus Book Rentals (which offers a savings of between 50 to 90 percent) earned a 5 star rating on thecollegeinvestor.com comparison report for their low prices, large selection, easy return process, and customer support.
Marn found that Chegg offered the best prices for some of the textbooks she was renting.
Students looking to recoup money spent on textbooks are often met with the reality that some books, loose leaf in particular, are ineligible for buyback programs.
When LCCC accounting student, Allison Soros, took a class at Akron University, her textbook cost $500. “At the end of the semester, the bookstore wouldn’t buy it back. I went around campus asking if students were taking this class. I put a flyer up and said you can have it; I don’t even care at this point,” said Soros.
It can be advantageous to wait until the first class before students purchase books, as some instructors make them available online or permit the use of previous editions. “You’re basically buying some books for the code and sometimes you can just buy the code,” said Soros, referring to her $200 bundle purchase consisting of a textbook and online code. After her purchase, she learned that her textbook was made available online by her instructor.
With some books having price tags of hundreds of dollars, the impact on a student’s bank account or financial aid is significant. Recouping money at the end of a semester is often met with either a paltry reimbursement or the option to sell the book back is non-existent, particularly in the case of loose-leaf textbooks. A student run Facebook page, “LCCC Student Textbook Exchange & Resale” is a page dedicated to helping students connect with each other to buy, trade or donate textbooks.