The prices of textbooks are continuing to rise and students are struggling to buy their required course materials. The textbook publishing industry is controlled by five companies that dominate up to 85 percent of the market. Students and professors are frustrated by frequent publications of new textbook editions and the consolidation of the publishing houses, which is reducing competition and allowing high prices to thrive. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has reported that 70 percent of students admit to not buying their textbooks because of their steep costs.
Students, professors, and policy groups have been trying to find ways to avoid the high cost of traditional textbooks over the past few years, while still requiring the materials needed to succeed in higher education programs. Their efforts have produced several alternatives to traditional textbooks. Students have increasingly used rentals and etextbooks to achieve lower prices; these textbooks, however, are criticized for their convenience drawbacks, limited use with an expiration date, and the inability to resell for the initial cost. Open-access textbook programs are gaining traction and being supported by several state legislatures, but they are not currently widely utilized in university systems. Lastly, some students are starting to resort to illegal file-sharing in order to obtain the course materials they cannot afford.
In the next few years, publishers will need to adjust the pricing on their textbooks to better accommodate students or they will encounter strong competition from the growing support of alternatives.
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