But textbook price increases for UNC-system students were recently kept lower than the Consumer Price Index increase, according to a February 2012 report to the Board of Governors.
Erin Langston, assistant vice president for finance for the UNC system, attributes that smaller increase to a system-wide emphasis on keeping costs low for students.
“We’ve been successful in keeping costs lower than reported inflation in part because there’s an awareness and attention to this,” she said.
“I would say we’re probably leading the way in this, versus other states. Not that many other systems or universities to my knowledge have placed such an important prominence on the topic.”
Part of that emphasis is an annual report by Langston and a team presented to the Board of Governors on textbook costs for students.
Kelly Hanner, course materials manager at UNC Student Stores, said some initiatives have contributed to the increase staying below CPI.
“The programs that we’re working on are reducing those costs and keeping us below other states’ averages for textbook costs,” she said.
These programs include guaranteed buybacks for large undergraduate courses, faculty coordination for textbook selection, digital textbooks, a de-emphasis on bundling, and textbook rentals.
“I think we’ve worked very hard to provide the lowest cost options for students we can.”
Hanner also said some faculty have been gradually moving away from using textbooks at all. This semester, 507 UNC classes are not using textbooks.
However, for many students, traditional campus bookstores are no longer the primary or preferred option.
“In the past, you had just your traditional campus bookstore,” Langston said.
“Today, there are five different mediums that a student can choose from. You can buy a new textbook from campus store or go to competitors on Franklin Street.”
“I would say the industry as a whole is so rapidly changing that it’s hard to predict where it’s going.”
Senior Will Barbour said he buys most of his textbooks from Amazon.com.
“I used to just buy my textbooks from Student Stores,” Barbour said. “But I realized how expensive student stores is, and it’s pretty ridiculous.”
Students can also now do business among themselves, using word of mouth or social media groups like the Facebook “Carolina Textbook Trade” group.
Hanner said Student Stores management is aware of that, and accounting for it in its policies.
“We’re aware that people buy stuff from other areas, and I understand that. But we do try to carry as much as the department allows us to, such as for students who might have found a book from their roommate and just need a new access key.”
Hanner said she has seen the industry change rapidly in the 25 years she has served as manager.
“Going forward, who knows where the textbook market is going to go?” Hanner said.
“We really don’t know where the industry is going to end up in, say, the next 20 years.”
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.