The College Textbook: Still a Rip-Off Scam

books-0814I had a bittersweet weekend. I moved my eldest daughter in to college.

And, if you’ve ever done that for your own kids, you know that last line is a massive over-simplification of the process. I mean, moving someone in to college entails a plethora of things including spending thousands of dollars on dorm room necessities (this, after sending thousands on tuition, room and board), thousands on school technology, hundreds on bathroom imperatives and then finding a way to fit it all in a car, driving it to said campus and then dripping sweat for hours unpacking in the 90-degree heat. Whew!

After a full-day of dorm unpacking, prepping, connecting and cleaning, we were off to dinner. I was starving and was impressed with the incredible selection of food, all you can eat, served by the school’s dining hall — something right out of Harry Potter.

Afterwards, we decided to pop on over to the university bookstore and grab the semester’s textbooks for classes like English 101, Computer Science 101 and Chemistry 101 — some things never change.

We headed down to the basement of book shelves where stacks upon stacks of class textbooks were neatly piled – new and used — all over the place with labels indicating which teachers selected which texts. But, what caught my eye on the label was not the class number, section number of the book’s ISBN number, but the price tag number.

After years and years of protesting and lamenting the cost of college textbooks, they’re still like $75-$150 each?!? What the heck?

Here we have an industry (the book market) that, in the last 20 or so years, has been ripped apart by Amazon, sliced and diced via big-box retailers and then the Internet and then forced to go iBooking and eBooking and, yet, they’re still able to rip off parents and kids who’ve already spent tens of thousands to attend college with an over-bloated, over-priced textbook?

Come on, $85 for a Chemistry textbook that’s been around for like 20-years and hasn’t changed much at all in the past decade. Surely there must be an economy-of-scale that’s capable of driving the price down by now?

OK, let be honest here — it’s a rip-off because it can be. There’s a guaranteed customer and no competition. Heck, I’m surprised the U.S. government hasn’t gotten into this business as it seems like the sort of monopoly they’re often a part of!

So, by the time we’ve gotten our kids to college, we’re so overwhelmed by everything that the last thing on our mind is to complain about — or feel like we can do anything about — the price of textbooks that are, by the way, REQUIRED to be purchased by each and every student.

What are we to do?

Nothing. Except write this blog.

Bummer, but at least I’ve vented…