Textbook Rebellion: Students Save on Textbooks

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CALPIRG Education Fund


San Francisco, CA –As universities and colleges across California start the new school year, students brace themselves for the high costs of education.  “There’s something wrong when the average student spends around $1,000 per year on textbooks” said Jon Fox, a Consumer Advocate with the California Public Interest Education Fund (CALPIRG).

A new survey released by the Student PIRGs found that 70% of student respondents reported not purchasing one or more of their assigned textbooks because the cost was too high. Of those students, 78% said they believed that they would do worse in a course without the required materials.  

“What students need are high-quality, affordable options, like open textbooks and other free resources, that give all students access to the knowledge they need to succeed in their courses” said Jon Fox.

The average student is expected to spend $1,137 on textbooks during the upcoming school year alone. Over the past two decades prices have increased more than four times the rate of inflation. Unnecessary new editions, expensive bundles and e-books that expire are common publishing industry tactics that further increase costs for students. 

“With today’s economy, students are being pinched by high book prices,” warned Jon Fox. However, there are ways to reduce spending on textbooks by as much as 80% every year. To save money on textbooks, CALPIRG recommends students try the following:

1.    Shop for used and new books online for greater selection and lower prices.

2.    If you don’t plan to keep the book at the end of the term, rent textbooks on campus or online. 

3.    Save money by cutting out the middle man – swap books with other students who have your book. Check out student-to-student swapping websites like textbookrevolt.com.

4.    Look for digital versions of your textbook on CourseSmart.com (which was founded by the 5 largest textbook publishers). Students can highlight, annotate and bookmark them just like a hard copy. However, there are some drawbacks with e-textbooks that students should note before purchasing.

5.    Check for discounts at off-campus bookstores. Used books are typically 75% of the price of new books and some stores offer to buy back textbooks for 50% of the new price.


“In an economy where a college degree is practically a necessity for securing a good job, students need to be able to afford the course materials they need to learn in school” said Jon Fox.  A coalition of students, faculty and organizations called the Textbook Rebellion have launched a cross-country tour to raise awareness of the high cost of college textbooks and advocate solutions.  With events planned at eight campuses across California, the tour features two mascots – ‘Mr. $200 Textbook’ and ‘Textbook Rebel’ – in spectacular larger-than-life costumes, who will help local volunteers distribute cost-saving tips and collect petition signatures. For event details across California please contact Nicole Allen at 401-484-8104 or [email protected] 



The California Public Interest Research Group  Education Fund (CALPIRG) is a result-oriented public interest group that protects consumers, encourages a fair sustainable economy, and fosters responsive democratic governance.