The National Association of College Stores, which represents college bookstore operators, has just released a study saying that by students' estimates, the average annual cost of required course materials is $655, down from $667 two years ago and $702 four years ago. The Student Watch study published by the NACS seems, at least in part, to be a response to the press release sent out last week by CourseSmart that said that almost 35% of students don't think that it's worth their effort to sell their textbooks back to college bookstores.
The NACS study says that 74% of college students prefer to rent hard
copy textbooks; the organization claims that rental can save students
between 45% and 66% off the price of a new print textbook. (CourseSmart
claims similar savings from rental of its eTextbooks.) The NACS claims
that purchasing used textbooks can save 25% off the price of new
textbooks for students, and that renting or purchasing eTextbooks is
also an option for saving money.
NACS' members are facing many challenges: Competition from
Internet-based textbook suppliers such as Chegg, Amazon, BookRenter and
others; publisher groups like CourseSmart that compete against
bookstores; colleges and universities that cut direct deals with
publishers such as McGraw-Hill and provide textbooks and course
materials through activity fees; and schools that adopt open textbooks
at low or no cost. Students, colleges
and universities are exploring more options than ever before, and college bookstores are no longer most students' de facto source for textbooks, eTextbooks and other materials.