Students Spent Slightly Less on Textbooks Last Year, Survey Finds

July 31, 2012

College students said they spent slightly less on textbooks and other course materials last year, compared with 2009, and almost $50 less than five years ago, according to survey results released on Tuesday by the National Association of College Stores.

When they were surveyed in the fall of 2011, students estimated that they spent $655 on course materials that year, less than the $667 they said they spent in 2009 and the $702 they spent in 2007, according to the association. The group credited the drop to college bookstores' efforts to help students save money, such as by offering more used textbooks for sale and providing more rental options.

"This is terrific news for students, who continue to be pressured by the higher cost of attending college," Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the association, said in a written statement. "The steady decline in textbook spending indicates that the money-saving strategies college stores have implemented are working."

James V. Koch, a professor of economics and president emeritus at Old Dominion University, said in an e-mail that he thinks the main reason for the drop-off is that students are using the Internet to find better deals on books.

"The Internet has reduced student search costs," he said, "and this appears to be paying off."

Mr. Koch said some students had used other strategies to reduce costs, such as photocopying books, sharing them, or simply going without a textbook. Last year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group released a study that found that seven in 10 college students had not purchased at least one required textbook because of high costs.