Textbooks Take Bite From Student Budget

The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 8, 2007; 3:15 PM

NEW YORK -- Like many college students, Andrew Favreau finds shopping for textbooks to be a challenge.

"Most people don't think about it, but the cost of textbooks is huge," said Favreau, 26, who is studying part-time for a master's in business administration at DePaul University in Chicago.

While most families factor rising costs for tuition and room and board into their college budgets, they often overlook the increasingly hefty bill for books. The College Board, which tracks college pricing trends, estimates that students spend about $940 a year on books and supplies.

To hold costs down, students who once shopped for texts only at the campus bookstore are casting wider nets, searching for new and used textbooks at online bookstores, seeking out student book exchanges, investing in e-books, sharing books with fellow students _ even borrowing books from public libraries.

Favreau, who works in marketing and public relations, said he's been willing to invest in some business school textbooks "because I'll likely revisit them or use them during the course of my career."

He said he's saved money by buying used texts at http://www.amazon.com, eBay Inc.'s http://www.half.com and other online booksellers. He's also turned to the Internet to resell the books he doesn't want to keep _ and, he said, got more cash than he would have selling through a campus or local bookstore.

Last semester, for example, he needed a book on information systems management that retails for about $150 new. He bought it used online for $84.99 and resold it for $59.99. Amazon.com currently sells used editions of the book for $73.

Bruce Hildebrand, executive director for higher education with the New York-based Association of American Publishers, said that textbooks are more expensive than other books in part because most have small press runs.

"An absolute best-seller _ and there are few _ would sell 40,000 editions a year," he said.

At the same time, some textbooks are "incredibly expensive to produce," especially math and science texts that require frequent revisions. Hildebrand also pointed out that it is professors who decide which textbooks they want their students to use _ and that they often have a lot of options.

"Take introductory psychology, a very popular course," Hildebrand said. "There are currently 216 different introductory psychology books on sale, and prices at retail range from $22.50 to $125."

Still, he said, publishers were trying to respond to calls for lower-cost texts, producing some in black-and-white instead of color, offering split texts _ half now, half later _ for some courses, even customizing compilations for some professors.

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