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Textbooks from CSU bookstores overpriced

Survey of 604 upcoming fall courses found students could buy books through third parties for much le

Posted: August 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

California students spend more than $2 million more than necessary when buying school books from standard campus bookstores, a study by a non-profit revealed Wednesday.

The 20 Million Minds Foundation found that books purchased through California State University campus bookstores were priced more than 25 percent higher than when buying books using online alternatives — escalating the cost of a higher education.

“What is lacking in the college textbook marketplace is price transparency for students and an independent objective place where students can compare bookstore prices to a true online marketplace,” said Dean Florez, former California State Senator and President of the Twenty Million Minds Foundation.

The foundation’s analysis involved books required for 604 courses from a variety of California State University campuses and comparing prices between the campus bookstore’s used books and other online textbook sources. The study found the books could be purchased elsewhere for less money but that university websites or their bookstores rarely promoted the alternatives.

Studying the list of required course books and comparing prices between campus bookstores and online bookstores, the researchers found students could save from $90 to $225 per textbook by buying their books online.

The 20 Million Minds Foundation’s study pointed to some examples such as California State University, Northridge, where specific courses in math, economics, business and astronomy revealed savings of more than $200 per textbook, providing students up to 95 percent savings. At Central Valley schools such as CSU Fresno and CSU Bakersfield students saved up to $175 per book.

“There is a significant amount of money that students and parents can save this fall semester on textbooks by simply using the cost comparison tool on the 20 Million Minds website,” Florez said.

Since the organization added the tool on its website, it noted that some of the bookstores do enlist price comparison tools on their own websites, but that comparison tools are rarely marketed to students inside the physical bookstores.

“Some universities may occasionally provide price comparisons on their own websites that undercut their own prices, but those comparisons are hardly objective,” Florez said. “Most students looking to save money on textbooks by comparing prices online were required to search on shopping websites by book, which can be a complicated process.”


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