clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

You're not imagining it: college textbooks prices are out of control

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Students going back to college this month know that college textbooks are usually really expensive. And the problem is only getting worse, as this chart from the American Enterprise Institute's Mark Perry shows:

The price of recreational books has fallen, relative to inflation, since 1998. New college textbooks, on the other hand, have increased much faster than inflation. The price of textbooks is increasing even faster than the price of college tuition.

One possible explanation, according to a 2005 report from the federal Government Accountability Office, is that publishers began doing more with college textbooks, such as adding CDs and supplementary sections. But that doesn't explain why prices have continued to skyrocket since 2005.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.