New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that “educational books” have dropped in price for the first time in almost 20 years.
According to a report by the College Fix, textbook prices have dropped approximately 26 percent since January 2017. Prior to the drop, the price of textbooks rose approximately six percent each year from 1998 to 2016. This equates to a 183 percent increase in the cost of textbooks across that period.
Mark J. Perry, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, claims that there are several factors for the recent price trend. One of the major factors, according to Perry, is the rise in open learning platforms online. For example, Rice University’s OpenStax platform provides students with free access to a select catalog of textbooks.
“Open textbooks are certainly disrupting the traditional textbook market and challenging their market share. And that’s one of the main reasons textbook prices have started falling,” Perry wrote in an email to the College Fix.
Perry estimates that textbook prices have fallen more than the BLS report suggests. “It often takes the BLS several years to recognize, incorporate and account for all of the disruptive forces in an industry like textbooks that lead to lower prices over time,” Perry explained. “So it’s highly likely that textbook prices for students have actually fallen more than the BLS estimates.”
Breitbart News reported in September 2018 that a law school professor at Case Western University opted to give his students a textbook he authored for free instead of asking them to pay $275 to the book’s publisher.
“It’s increasingly hard to justify making students pay exorbitant casebook prices, so I decided to prepare my own materials for ConLaw this year. It’s lots of work, but will save my students (collectively) over $15,000,” he wrote on Twitter at the time. “Going without a casebook means less note material, and more lightly edited cases, but avoids the need to require a $250 casebook. I hope my students think that’s a good trade (and I’d argue less case editing has pedagogical benefits of its own),” he added.
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