Monday, August 6, 2018

Thrifty Thinking: College Textbooks

According to new data released today by, the top textbook price comparison website that tracks eight million college textbooks, the average price of textbooks decreased by more than $10 from January 2017 to January 2018. This is the first sign of depreciation in years.  It’s been reported that average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation over the past 10 years.

CampusBooks data also revealed that college students may be living entirely digital lifestyles but they aren’t willing to go completely paperless especially when it comes to textbooks. Students are still buying hard books and are exploring other options in order to save a few bucks including rentals. Used book sales represent an average of 45 percent of all sales from 2016 through 2018 with new books only accounting for 30 percent. Rentals, which have seen a significant rise, are close to 20 percent - demonstrating that having a book in the hand is still the preferred choice for college students. 

The data shows that eBook sales have increased by more than 37 percent since 2016 but only account for an extremely small portion (2%) of overall sales. While textbook rentals are on the rise, it is still used and new books that reign. Rentals are the lowest cost option for most students and often the fastest alternative but do not provide options for students to buy and/or sell back copies for extra cash, which in today’s growing college debt community, is a missed opportunity. eBooks are an emergent option but they are the most expensive option and studies continue to support print as better for comprehension and retention.

“The sign of college textbook decreasing runs counter to the 20 year narrative of staggering price increases, which will be beneficial to those strapped with large student loans,” said Alex Neal, CEO of CampusBooks. “Students may be completely digital these days – growing up on tablets and smartphones - but when it comes to the college classroom, hard back books still represent the best value and learning tool. One surprising data point is that students aren’t looking at ways to put cash back in their pocket with textbook buy-back programs. Rentals might be the cheapest but they don’t help pay off student loans.”

CampusBook’s data also shows there were over 20,000 profitable books in the Spring 2018 semester and over 10,000 in the Fall 2017 semester. To help students save money, break-even or profit, CampusBooks developed “Buy vs. Rent,” a free patent-pending price prediction tool, an industry first, that helps students decide with confidence whether they should buy or rent based on current price and future estimated value.

The data is based on CampusBooks textbook sales from August 2016 (fall semester) to January 2018 (spring semester). During that time over 60,000 students visited CampusBooks to research and compare prices about textbook options.

ABOUT CAMPUSBOOKS carries over eight million new and used college textbooks in one convenient location. The online resource searches thousands of sellers and compares prices on new and used books, rentals and eBooks for students. For more information, visit

CampusBooks developed “Buy vs. Rent,” a free patent-pending tool that is the first in the industry to provide students with detailed information that includes:
·         Side-by-Side Price Comparison: The site compares prices of buying and renting including the price of the book, buyback price, condition of the book and rental cost for the same book side by side to help buyers decide to rent or purchase a textbook.
·         Historic Buyback Prices: Based on the book's serial number, the buyback tool shows the price of the book day by day through a linear chart to further help determine if purchasing a book is going to make a profit, breakeven or depreciate.  See below for an example. 
·         Purchasing Questionnaire: personalizes the book buying experience by asking questions to help buyers make smart decisions based on their individual needs for the textbook.
· Recommendation: Using past sale trends, compares prices for every book for the buyer and suggests the best option to ensure the quickest and most cost efficient purchase along with a confidence rating of the purchase.

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