To buy or to rent that is the question

Textbook prices have risen 812 percent since 1978

Amanda Krehbiel, Assistant Website Editor

Imagine a world where the total dollar amount you spend on college tuition, room and board, books and fees is under $1,760 per year. You are living in 1975.

But, you’re not. It’s 2015, and the average college student pays over half that on textbooks alone.

From 1978 to 2012, the price of college textbooks rose 812 percent, according to The Atlantic. The College Board estimates the average price that a college student in a 4-year program pays for one year’s worth of textbooks is $1,200.

This is a startling amount, and people all over the country are asking, “why?”

Liz Hagmann, manager of the Student Bookstore located just across Main Street from the Wayne State College campus, is one of those people.

Through her years at the bookstore, she has found that a while back, math and science textbooks were costing students the most money. But over the years, business textbooks have been pulling even more dollars from students’ wallets.

With sites like Chegg and Amazon rivaling bookstores, students can get their required texts for generally less than store prices. The way these sites are able to offer different prices on textbooks is because they run on the supply and demand business model, according to Tim Barnes, manager of the on-campus bookstore since 2009.

“The price of books [in bookstores] is driven by the publisher. The publishers want to stay in business,” he said, explaining why in-store prices can be higher than online. “Bookstores can’t compare to Chegg and Amazon because they dont pay the author or publisher.”

Another factor in the rising cost of textbooks is that textbooks are now becoming multi-media, often having access codes for additional online learning.

“Renting is cheaper than buying texts,” Hagmann said. “Renting a book can save a student at least 50 percent or more on the cost of the text.”

Hagmann said she believes that it’s natural for students to get stressed about spending a lot of money on anything, let alone textbooks.

But, there’s a solution for that.

The Student Bookstore matches rental prices on books if students bring in quotes from Chegg, Amazon and This keeps shopping local, and also saves on shipping costs.

E-books are a good second option for those who like to save money. They tend to be cheaper, are inevitably available, and the best part is skipping the mad rush to and long lines in the bookstore. Just be certain that when you purchase or rent an e-book it is indeed less expensive. NBC gives the example of a certain science textbook that costs roughly $84. To buy the e-book is $70. But the rental on Amazon is $41—and it can be sold back over the site.

In an investigation conducted by the University of Michigan in 2012, it was discovered that the sites Chegg, Amazon and CourseSmart, on average, save: 88 percent off the list price for new print texts, 65 percent off the list price for used print texts, 43 percent off the list price for renting a new or used print text and 50 percent off the list price for renting or subscribing to an e-book.

“It’s the students’ choice whether they want to rent or buy,” Hagmann said.

Although some textbooks may be needed by a deadline, it’s never a bad idea to try to save a bit of money by checking out all the sources for textbooks. Sites like compare prices of a textbook from different stores.

Let’s only hope that by the time the next generation gets to college prices won’t have risen another 812 percent.