Is The College Textbook Bubble Popping?
“[T]hat giant hissing sound you might be hearing is the ‘college textbook bubble’ starting to deflate,” writes Mark Perry noting that companies like Flat World Knowledge are offering cheaper online, print-yourself and e-book alternatives to the traditional textbook that, even when purchased online, can cost hundreds of dollars per copy.
It is amazing, to be sure, what the free market can accomplish even in the heavily regulated, controlled world of higher education. Sadly, though, I believe the textbook bubble is only going to pop when the rest of the higher education bubble pops.
Right now students are viewed by most universities not as customers to be served an education in exchange for payment, but rather as so many cattle with certain amounts of government money and government money attached that is to be harvested before the students/cattle are pushed out the college exit chute. The way students are bilked on text books is just one manifestation of that attitude.
What my younger friends and relatives tell me is that they’re often forced to do most of their text book shopping at the college book store, or at certain vendors selected by the college. While the text books they need may be available from other sources for cheaper, usually they’re told by their instructors that they need some specific version of the text book that they can only purchase from the sources officially endorsed by the university.
Sources that, routinely, charge far higher prices for the books.
The fundamental problem with higher education is that the universities have little interest in serving the students. Rather, the universities are serving the politicians who are providing all the subsidies for the students.
If students were individually responsible for their own education, you’d see the universities be a lot more careful about not screwing them over when it comes to things like tuition, fees and textbooks.Tags: free markets, higher education, higher education bubble, text books