Textbook Spending

Textbook Spending Continues Slow Decline

Nick Hazelrigg July 25, 2019

According to the survey of more than 20,000 students across 41 institutions conducted by the National Association of College Stores, students on average spent $415 on course materials in the 2018-19 academic year, down from $484 last year. Student spending has declined almost every year in the last decade — in 2008 students spent an average of $700 on course materials.

An internal survey conducted by the textbook retailer Campusbooks.com found the company’s average textbook prices had fallen 26 percent in the last two years.

Nicole Allen, director of open education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said the results are consistent with recent trends in the pricing of course materials.

Pearson and textbooks


textbook companies new options


Some publishers have recently started offering subscription options for textbooks. Take Perlego, a UK-based company which gives users access to a library of content, including digital textbooks. And starting in August 2018, textbook publisher Cengage will let students access all of the company’s digital higher education materials for $119.99 a semester.

Of the six students we talked to, only one had taken a class that used an Open Educational Resource, or OER in place of a commercial textbook.

Morris had never even heard of OERs, but after she was given a quick definition, she said she wishes she’d known about them and they seem like they could be beneficial for students if they can find what they need on them.

Abdala said she had never encountered OER in her courses, but she trusts that her professors would vett any materials carefully before assigning them. “Before I take a class I do research on the faculty,” she says. “And if it’s somebody that’s a good professor, I’m sure that they would not settle for something that is not good material.”