Is Anyone Happy about the College Textbook Market?

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College textbooks represent one of the leading requirements and costs for most credit courses. Instructors often vary the type of books they expect students to read, from the purchase of e-books and print texts to semester-by-semester rentals.

University texts are also available in various formats, including anthologies, surveys, handbooks, and workbooks along with many others. But not everyone is satisfied with the way that texts are sold and used in the current higher education market due to supply and order reasons like the following.

Instructors May Experience Limited Distribution

A majority of campuses prohibit faculty from requiring students to use the instructor’s own textbook. Alternately, if they can use the text in the classes they teach, they must report sales and income to university officials to avoid a conflict of interest.

In addition, text publishers might provide faculty authors an order discount that students do not receive, which does not encourage faculty to require higher-cost textbooks or students to buy them. Instead, students will either forego buying the textbook or share a friend’s copy. This defeats the purpose of publishing the books and expecting students to pay top dollar for them.

Students Often Pay Skyrocketing Book Costs

Whether or not an instructor requires students in his or her classes to use texts that have been authored by the faculty member, textbook costs continue to rise, adding to the financial burden of a college education. Compounding the problem is the fact that many if not most texts can be used in only one class and will be relegated to the student’s bookshelf for possible future reference or sold at a discount price to another student.

Depending on the discipline and course, newly-published books often run several hundred dollars. Students who take more than a class or two each semester may rack up a sizable book bill along with tuition and fees, and possibly other expenses like parking and computer use. While used books and e-books are often cheaper, they are not always available for all students every semester.

Bookstores Struggle with Stock Expectations and Payments

Each term, instructors or departments submit book orders to the bookstore to prepare for the next semester. Orders are based on expected class enrollment, but these figures cannot be confirmed until the semester begins. By then, the bookstore may have ordered too many or too few texts, which means store associates may have to scramble to order more books for students who need them or return unpurchased books unless they decide to keep them in stock for the following semester, hoping the book does not go into a new edition.

Another potential complication when students start to buy textbooks each semester is how to pay for them. Those who receive financial aid finance books for their classes one way, while students on scholarships typically purchase bookstore supplies using another method.

Other Options

Students sometimes prefer to buy textbooks as required or recommended by faculty by ordering through a non-campus bookstore. Occasionally, faculty change their texts at the beginning of a semester for various reasons. An instructor may be replaced due to illness or other situations, which means a replacement instructor may prefer to use different books for the course. Students also switch classes at the last minute for a variety of reasons, requiring them to return planned books and exchange them for others in the new class that has been added.

Using another bookstore off campus at their leisure allows students and faculty to avoid some of the hassles associated with books and supplies used in college courses. Students can pay on their own terms in a more straightforward way than the campus bookstore might require.

College today is more complex and challenging than ever. Faculty and students benefit from fewer distractions in order to focus on the task of education. By broadening the ways in which course books can be ordered in their various formats, time frames, and payment plans, instructors can avoid the stress of technical aspects of their job like book orders, and students can take care of book orders on their own schedules and budgets. Reducing stress associated with book orders will help the semester to begin more smoothly and make everyone involved a little happier and carefree.

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