The High Cost of Textbooks

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I frequently have conversations about the high cost of textbooks. That's my job, and those who make decisions on textbook adoptions for students have also given this topic a lot of thought. There are plenty of articles free for the searching on why textbooks have increased in price over the years, and the reasons documented seem to be largely accurate. Some of the factors do not reflect well on the publishing industry or on the textbook adoption process that occurs on college campuses and in our public school systems. Identifying the complaints is the easy part. As my thesis advisor would say, this is where we insert an unworkable recommendation and call it a day.

I propose that there is a bigger problem with textbooks than their high cost: it's their lack of efficacy. Textbooks are a poor value proposition to today's students. For valid reasons, textbooks are too often unused by students. Warren Buffet is credited with saying "price is what you pay; value is what you get."

Try this analogy: Purchasing a one-day ticket to Disney World for $75 is not fun, but nobody complains about the price when they are exiting the park after having a great day. If the price of textbooks could magically be cut in half, but students still didn't read them, the number one complaint about them would continue to be their high cost.

At Thinkwell we endeavor to build a "textbook" that delivers a good value. Sure, we typically cost less than a traditional textbook, but our surveys consistently show that more than 90% of students prefer Thinkwell over a traditional book. A funny thing happens when a student is successful in a course and enjoys using the learning materials: the issue of cost disappears.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Schnug, VP of Sales & Marketing published on May 7, 2009 4:06 PM.

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