Textbooks should not be a required expense for students


Infographic by Elisa Zody — Digital and Multimedia Editor

Rising prices cause textbooks to be a financial burden for students.

Eric Klang, Reporter

I don’t believe that students should have to pay for the required material, especially if they are already paying for the class. Rather, if professors are not able to find outside material, they should consider not requiring textbooks and allow students to utilize the free or less expensive alternatives.

This semester, I needed to buy new textbooks for my classes, which ended up being a little over $160 on Amazon for two textbooks alone and would have been more expensive at the bookstore at their regular price. According to the California Lutheran University bookstore website, the bookstore offers price matches against websites like Amazon and other competitors.

This raises the question of why college textbook prices have risen in recent years.

According to an article published in Vox, Gaby Del Valle said, “Textbook costs increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to the BLS report.” 

Since textbook publishers have little competition and can set the prices of their textbooks, as well as determine what percent of the cost will be contributed as royalties for the author, this can result in high pricing. Additionally, students often have no other alternatives to buying or renting these textbooks for their classes, regardless of the price. 

Leanna Pagano, librarian and manager of resource sharing and course reserves, said it is not cost-effective for Pearson Library to continually obtain textbooks.

“We don’t actively purchase textbooks because, similar to students, it’s very expensive, and we just can’t afford to buy new versions of these textbooks every single year, it’s not sustainable,” Pagano said.

If the university’s library can’t afford new textbooks every year, then why should students be expected to have to buy them every semester? The institution and the professors who choose their textbooks need to consider what is sustainable on both ends, not just their side.

Fortunately, Pagano informed me of multiple resources to find course materials for free, or at least cheaper online. 

Pagano said that the library does have access to multiple textbooks through their online databases, all of which are in the library’s catalog, as well as a lower-cost textbook guide, which can help you find your textbook for the lowest possible price. 

The library also buys online book licenses for many of the textbooks that it is allowed to rent out to students who need them for a short period of time. However, these licenses are limited, so if multiple people are renting all the licenses to one particular textbook, then nobody else will be able to view the material until the other renters are done with the license.

“Some publishers allow unlimited licenses which means we purchase it and it’s available to as many students at the given time. There are three-user licenses and one-user licenses,” Lala Badal, librarian and head of electronic resources and digital content, said. 

Badal said that the library tries to buy as many licenses for these textbooks as it can, but the licenses aren’t cheap either, and the price is dependent on multiple factors.

“It depends on the cost, it depends on the publisher rights and it depends on if the material is for the course or just for personal use or research use or something like that,” Badal said.

There is also a free online e-book collection that is available to any student or staff.

“Before the pandemic shutdown, we actually did textbook drives where students at the end of the semester, if they wanted to donate their textbook to Pearson Library so that future students didn’t need to purchase it and save money, they could,” Pagano said. 

A textbook drive would be a perfect way for the library to gain more textbooks for it to lend to students for free, and I think that they should restart that program as soon as possible. Pagano said that they do accept donations now from any student who may be done with or no longer need some of their textbooks.  

It is necessary that more consideration is given to the financially viable options for students in regard to textbooks. Allowing various inexpensive or free alternatives, such as accessible online texts from outside sources, is just one more way to alleviate the financial burden for students.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial for students to take advantage of the resources and textbooks that are available for free or at reduced costs. Pagano and Badal said they recommend this website for lower-cost e-textbooks and how to navigate the library catalog here.

This article was updated at 8:21 a.m. on Feb. 7 to correct the spelling of Lala Badal’s last name. We regret this error.