College textbook bubble will burst

The college textbook bubble will burst when the “open educational resources” movement breaks the textbook cartel, writes Mark Perry on AEIdeas.

Since 1978, the cost of education books and supplies (mostly college textbooks) has increased by 812 percent, his chart shows. That’s much more than the very high inflation rate for medical services or new homes and way more than the 250 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index. It’s “unsustainable,” Perry writes.

Never Pay Sticker Price for a Textbook Again, writes Slate.

My husband used to write college engineering textbooks. He hasn’t updated his old book or written a new one because he doesn’t think he can earn enough to justify his time. In part, that’s because publishers charge so much for textbooks that students are refusing to buy them. They share, use out-of-date editions, buy pirated copies online or try to get by without a book. He’s looked at writing an online textbook, but the money doesn’t work that way either.

He’d like to write a new, shorter book that leaves out the skills students no longer need and includes higher-level skills that could get them their first job. But it’s an enormous amount of work. Professors would have to update their courses. And students won’t buy it if it’s too expensive.

Who will write college textbooks in the brave new “open” world? Maybe young professors who want to make their mark. Maybe the whole idea of a single textbook is obsolete.

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