A textbook case of price gouging

Often forgotten until the beginning of the semester, textbooks are an added insult to the injury of ever-increasing educational costs.

Time has shown that these prices will likely never decrease with even E-books becoming more expensive. The most shocking problem is the price differences between the campus bookstore and online sellers.

Many students simply do not scour the Internet for future textbooks in the winter or summer break. Instead, they wait so they can ask the instructor if older versions of texts will suffice or see if they can find some old, dusty edition from the library. By that time, the best online deals are gone, and they get stuck with more expensive online deals that may have damage. Despite these issues, websites like Amazon.com still offer better deals than the UH bookstore. The UH bookstore, and many other university bookstores, profit mainly because of their convenience.

As a media productions junior, I often am straddled with texts that are constantly updated to suit the ever-changing world of film and television. The UH bookstore offers one of my communication books, “Video Basics 6,” at $206 new, $154.50 used or $73 rented.

From an Amazon Marketplace seller — a third-party seller in which Amazon earns a commission — the book can be found from $38.98 new and from $16.80 used.

Another, “Audio in Media,” is offered at $231 new and $173 used at the bookstore. Again, through the Amazon Marketplace, I can find the book new starting at $121 or $90 used.

This pattern repeats across the board for all majors.

The price differences are shameful to UH. The sellers on Amazon’s Marketplace could care less about students, yet they are much more caring for our wallets than our own University retailer.

Almost all purchases, under Amazon’s seller obligation policy, offer a 30-day money-back guarantee compared to the UH bookstore’s paltry and loaded return policy. This is not to deny that UH and Barnes & Noble, its partner retailer, can’t make a profit, but with these prices, they are treating their students like strangers.

This is even more evident when it comes to their buy-back service. They usually offer $10 to $30 for books that were bought at above $100.

I refuse to purchase anything from the UH bookstore, from textbooks to bluebooks. Even for selling, I can get nearly 75 percent of my book’s original cost through online buyers. I could donate them to the library or even prop up my desk with them. If not any of those options, I’d rather pull a “Fahrenheit 451” on my books and burn them. I’d do anything but contribute money to the University through these means.

There are some legitimate excuses for price differences, but the bottom line is that students are being ripped off.

Occasionally there is some discussion on the overall high price of textbooks at other colleges. Some meetings are set up across campuses and some solutions are suggested, but nothing really happens. These bookstores may contend that they cannot buy directly from publishers and still compete with the prices of second-hand sellers, but that is their problem, not ours. As these strategies and prices continue, we as consumers should send a strong message by not patronizing them.

Babak Hamidi is a media production junior and can be reached at [email protected].


  • It’s not just the UH Bookstore, it’s the colleges themselves. There have been many news pieces on the collusion btw colleges and text book publishers. Constant unnecessary revisions making previous textbooks “obsolete,” kickbacks, etc. “Ma$tering (fill in the blank)” anyone? What a rip-off.

  • Um, there is something you have to learn – GOOD, FAST, CHEAP – pick two. You can’t get all three. That’s why the bookstore can sell books for the price it does. Pure supply & demand. You wait until the last minute and don’t do your homework – you pay. Pretty simple equation.

  • Highly unlikely the Bookstore will change their ways anytime in the near future unfortunately.

    The only things that really riles me is when professors use books that are either a) custom created (and not available for free, like POLS 1336 and POLS 1337), b) have several books all bundled in a packaged where the ISBN can’t be easily distinguished without physically checking it, or c) require any special online access code be purchased exclusively at the bookstore. All are meant to push you to the bookstore.

    Education costs way too much today, and the ridiculous collusion prices of textbooks only adds to that injury.

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