Textbook prices have risen more than 1,000% since 1977

Students are 'captive consumers'

The cost of college textbooks is exploding, Ben Popken reports for NBC News—and some experts compare the market for textbooks to the market for prescription drugs.

According to NBC's review of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices rose 1,041% from January 1977 to June 2015. Some experts say the way books are sold contributes to out-of-control costs.

Like medical patients, students are "captive consumers," explains Nicole Allen, spokesperson for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. They must purchase whatever they are told to purchase by a professor—or a doctor.

And like doctors, professors "are not price-sensitive," says Ariel Diaz, CEO of Boundless, which publishes free and inexpensive textbooks.

Traditional textbook publishers argue that the data on textbook prices is misleading. Students today are "savvier shoppers," says Laura Massie, spokesperson for the National Association of College Stores. Many students rent books or buy them used, she argues, so they are actually spending less on course materials (Popken, NBC News, 8/4).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.


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