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Why Are Textbooks so Expensive?

The Cost of Textbooks Where Your Text Dollar Goes

As a University Partners we are committed to supporting teaching and learning on Campus and we have the same concerns as students about the cost of textbooks. The Campus Store is committed to keeping the cost of academic materials as low as possible.

How the textbook industry operates

The textbook industry operates according to some unusual market forces. In what has been coined a "Broken Market," the end consumer (the student) does not choose their product and the instructor or department that chooses the textbook does not actually purchase it.

As a result, price is not always revealed to the instructor when they are making their textbook choices allowing the producer (publishers) a disproportionate amount of power to set prices high. To add to this there is very little competition in the textbook market, with only a handful of major publishers to choose from.

Dr. James V. Koch's paper "An Economic Analysis of Textbook Pricing and Textbook Markets" gives a comprehensive overview of the landscape of the Textbook Market. Although Koch's paper is an American study, the same basic principles apply to the Canadian Market.

Working to keep course material prices as low as possible

Most students don't realize the effort Campus Store staff are continually making to try to keep prices as low. Without these efforts, your student books would cost a lot more.

The McMaster University Campus Store is also a key member of the Canadian Roundtable on Academic Materials (CRAM). CRAM is made up of representatives from a number of Canadian student associations and university bookstores.

We also work closely with McMaster's faculty to:

A Breakdown of Where Your Text Book Dollar GoesThe Breakdown of Where Your Text Dollar Goes