Back To $chool

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 31 2012 @ 5:39pm

Danielle Kurtzleben examines the business of textbooks, the prices of which rise at double the rate of inflation. The industry defends its high prices:

According to [publishing industry rep Bruce] Hildebrand, developing and producing a textbook takes three to five years on average, and can be even take more than a decade for some science books. When students plunk down hundreds of dollars for academic tomes, he says, they are paying for this labor-intensive process. For this reason, e-textbooks that are gaining prominence in the marketplace may not be much cheaper than their physical counterparts. Content, not paper, is the key cost in producing a book, says Rich Hershman, director of government relations at NACS. And the cost of bringing textbooks into the digital age may even push book costs higher. … It's not just high-tech add-ons that are pushing the price of the books. Publishers claim that old-fashioned reselling adds to the cost. "The single greatest contributor to the price of a textbook is a used textbook," says Hildebrand. As students use these as substitutes for new books, in other words, it creates fiscal pressures on publishers.