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Textbook Prices Drop For First Time In A Decade

Emmagrace SperleTextbook prices have dropped 26 percent since 2017, a study shows. Despite this, some students still look for textbooks outside of the campus bookstore.

As classes begin and Loyola students search for textbooks that won’t break the bank, they might have better luck this year than in the past. National textbook prices have dropped 26 percent since 2017, according to a new report by campusbooks.com.

The national decrease in price is the first in years as the Bureau of Labor Statistics found textbook cost increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. 

Kevin Wolsko, the multi-store unit manager for Loyola Bookstores, said in an email to The Phoenix Loyola’s book prices are heavily dependant on the prices set by the vendors, but the bookstore works to make these prices affordable for students. 

“In most instances, book prices are set by the vendors as a list price which provides a common blanket across all channels for text values,” Wolsko wrote. “As adoptions continue to grow and programs migrate, prices fluctuate to be more accessible for students.”

Despite the reported decrease, some students, including Rachel Nezzer, a Loyola junior studying film and Latin, look for resources outside of the bookstore. 

Nezzer, 20, said renting from the bookstore is last resort if she can’t find a cheaper option online from other vendors. She said she hasn’t seen a perceivable change in textbook cost and people avoid paying for books by doing things such as using the free campus library resources.

“I know people who check [a textbook] out from the library and take pictures of the pages, and then turn it into a PDF and share it with the entire class,” Nezzer said.

Timothy Gilfoyle, a history professor at Loyola, said he stopped using standard textbooks years ago and uses selected readings from books instead because they are more engaging and cheaper for students. He said he reserves his assigned books in the library so his students don’t have to buy the books. 

“It’s always been a way to cut book costs for students,” Gilfoyle said. “Because book costs can be a burden for students.”

Gilfoyle said most professors are more aware of book prices due to the general price increase but the broad market makes it difficult to determine what students will actually pay. 

“Most faculty are more conscious about textbook prices because they have gone up so much,” Gilfoyle said. “I think it’s hard for faculty to know what the price actually is because of the rental and resale market and even Amazon, you can find cheap copies … so it’s very hard to know exactly what the real cost is for students.” 

Even though some might say lower prices are more manageable, the sticker prices are still too steep for many, including first year Nhi Doung who said she was taken aback by textbook costs.

“It was really shocking [and] expensive,” Doung, 18, said. “It was a strain financially.” 

Campusbooks.com based its data on 500,000 online textbook purchases from August 2016 to January 2019 and cited a growing rental market as the primary driver of the change. 

“The college textbook price decrease is primarily due to the increase of rentals which are typically less expensive — a large factor for students who are often taking out student loans as a result of increased tuition costs,” Alex Neal, the CEO of CampusBooks, said in a press release. “Textbook rentals have nearly doubled in the last three years due to widespread awareness and acceptance, and there are more books available to rent.” 

The report estimates rentals will account for 35 percent of this fall semester’s sales and found new and used book sales are down 20 percent.

However, nursing student Tess Gerson said renting textbooks comes with its own cost.

“I prefer to buy,” the 19-year-old said. “When you rent you never know what condition they’re going to be in.” 

The sophomore conveyed it was especially difficult to buy new books outright, but by using comparison shopping she is able to get by.

Wolsko said the bookstore is working to increase the availability of rentals and e-books, electronic versions of printed books, in order to lower costs for students. 

“Both e-text and rental programs are continuing to grow every term,” Wolsko wrote in an email to The Phoenix. “The bookstore works hard with the departments, publishers and vendors to continue to increase the available titles for rental in order to provide affordable access to quality educational material here on campus.”

E-books are on the rise, according to the report, with sales up 95 percent this year. However, e-book sales still only accounted for 5 percent of total sales, due to limited availability, the report said. 

Wolsko said in his email professors often limit technology and e-book use, even though students are embracing the e-books and online access, which limits the bookstore’s options. 

Fernanda Aragon, a first-year criminology major, who said she prefers e-books, rented textbooks this semester because e-books weren’t available.

“If they have the ebooks, that’s easier so you don’t have to carry [them] around, but renting would be the best financial option,” Aragon, 18, said. 

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