Is Sinclair really as affordable as claimed? Textbook prices make no sense.

Algebra hasn’t changed that much in the last 50 years. Printing has. Even when the cost of four-color offset printing has dropped like a rock, textbook publishers are getting away with grand theft. At Sinclair Community College beginning Algebra costs $180- the books cost $156.

Three business books add even more to the price tag: Intro to Supervision is $115, Intro to Business is $160 and Interpersonal Communication comes in at $90.40

Total book prices: $521.40

Total tuition: $585

Anyone else have a problem with this?

And if you really want to read some good business books- I’d suggest a whole slew of best sellers, written by people who don’t have PhD after their name, that come in at under $25 a pop.

To make things even more tilted- some of the courses didn’t announce what books were required until today- the first day of classes. This thwarts students from seeking titles from online book providers where they can save at least 20% or more. The rule of P’s is very applicable here- “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance” or in this case- Piss Poor Prices.

If universities and community colleges in Ohio really want to work to deliver a higher quality education for less, it’s time to investigate publishing or using existing open-access textbooks. If anyone can tell me why we can’t create a simple college-level algebra curriculum using free courseware tools like Moodle when we have at least 200+ PhD mathematicians on the State payroll- I’d be interested.

For some reason educators seem terrified of the open source tools for delivery of educational materials and resources for learning. I still hear stories of requiring Microsoft Office- on a PC instead of realizing that Google Docs is a real option- or even Open Office. Why are we demanding students use proprietary tools? Is to make sure Bill Gates recovers his position as the Worlds richest man? Afterall, he was a college drop out.

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DianaDavid EsratiTeriDavid EsratiJake Recent comment authors
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Timely post for me as I was sweatin’ it Monday, first day of class (@ Sinclair) with no funds to get my book. (Conflict in Communication COM 265 book price USED $73.00)
Lucky for me the instructor was sick and the first day of class didn’t even happen.
That buys me some time and puts me closer to the only paycheck this quarter I can even think about buying a book.

I would like to see course material’s go electronic. Heck, you can’t even fill out a job application on paper anymore.

And the way the text book printing biz is going it may not take long before it goes electronic.
Mazer’s print division got their “pink slips” with no warning via email near 5:00 on 12/30/08. Not even an HR rep in the building to answer questions or anything. Ironic. All that paper and they fire everyone through an email.

Rascally Rascal

Just a tip from someone who posts here regularly but who doesn’t want to be identified.

What I do is buy the books, take them home, photograph every page with my digital camera, covert them all to .pdfs, and print from my laster printer as necessary.

Then I return the books to the bookstore for a full refund. It’s a lot of work and hassle, but worth it because the book business is a total racket.


RR, that’s a ton of work!


In the past I have done a search through the University library system, I think it’s Ohio link, you can borrow the book for an extended time period. I would definitely wait to see if the book is absolutely necessary, the Sinclair Library may have it as a resource, and if that’s the case, make copies of the chapters. Sinclair also has resource centers within their departments; they usually have the books in there, or just ask the instructor to borrow theirs (and make copies of the required chapters). If you buy a new book, just to return it later, you will not get a full refund once the plastic is removed. I always check amazon too. I’ve bought my share of books and I agree it’s a crime.


jane just described my senior year! I was tired of dropping ~$1000 on books each year of college, so I just borrowed them!


I know that what I write is ancient history, but what galled me when I was in college under the World War II GI Bill (which deducted the cost of books from the total entitlement) was a professor’s insistence that we buy his textbook.
Textbooks by profs at Harvard and the University of Chicago couldn’t possibly do the job. Only his own book would do.
And, of course, you couldn’t find his book anywhere but in the college bookstore, not at the used bookstore around the corner.

In the 'burg
In the 'burg

I had to buy two copies of some of my textbooks…like my Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy.

One was a clean copy to study from at home and the other was a “slop copy” to keep at the slab in the cadaver lab for reference.

If you think it’s tough to get a full refund for a book just because you’ve taken the plastic off, try getting your money back when somebody’s spleen is smeared on page 97.

Don Kassner

Textbook costs are another area that schools really need to focus on. To solve this problem – schools can do the following

1.) Slow down the course redevelopment process – don’t jump to new editions so quickly so that the existing inventory of used textbooks can be leverages

2.) Search for lower cost textbooks during course development

3.) Demand more e-book options

4.) Don’t be lured by the custom book market – this effectively eliminates the used book option for students

5.) Push for ebook options – this cuts the student cost by about 50%

6.) Search for free book options – like the wiki book project

7.) Use textbooks that can be acquired through the various textbook rental companies (this saves students about 60%)

As a college president (Andrew Jackson University) I am very concerend about these costs and we are moving ahead on all these initiatives…I hope others will follow,


I had a total Sienfeld moment with my book last quarter. It smelled so bad that every time I had to open it I gagged. I tried many times to describe this smell to people but couldn’t. I don’t even think the 3M vault of oder would have this one.
It was like some kind of putrid Hawaiian Punch and something unidentifiable.
So if you can imagine Elaine going to the used book store and asking to smell the book before buying it, that’s gonna be me this quarter.
Thanks “In the Burg” for that insight. Playing “name that smell” just got a little more interesting.

In the 'burg
In the 'burg

I respectfully burned the slop copy. It seemed like the right thing to do since the rest of his remains were cremated at the end of the year, too.

But I kept the clean copy because Netter is a classic.
I still refer to it every now and then, when I have to show someone that I do indeed know my ass from my elbow.

Some textbooks are worth every penny.


I think taxpayers should pay for books. And room and board. And tuition.

Why don’t we just make the government tax us 90% and then turn and give that money back to us in the form of a salary.

Or we could grow up and pay for shit ourselves.

David Esrati
David Esrati

@Don It’s nice to see a college president being active in the web 2.0 world- most can’t figure out how to turn a computer on.
Found an interesting textbook clearinghouse site-
Where you can trade books to save money.


Can you prove most college presidents can’t figure out how to turn on a computer? The answer, of course, is NO. You have a real big ego picking on people who lead our college system – they are not the problem. Grade school thru high school is our problem. You again prove your ego is bigger than your brain. Good luck on wasting more time running for office, maybe you could put to use productive words there.

BTW, I will bet all of my money that 90% of college presidents use computers just fine.


As someone who works for a textbook company, there are a couple of things to think about:

1. There are several reasons textbooks cost so much: paper, permissions, and professors. Paper’s expensive (and so is printing), but professors aren’t always willing to switch to e-books (even if they’re available). Permissions– paying rightsholders for copyrighted material within a book, which is a whole post in itself– can be exceptionally expensive. Professors want books written by other professors, not some Joe Schmoe without a Ph.D.– so you have to pay royalties to authors who can negotiate a pretty high royalty rate.

Oh, and don’t forget composition, and paying people (like me) to put the book together, send the book out to print, work with the authors, market it… you get the idea.

Science books will always be more expensive because pictures and graphs are expensive to produce and/or get rights for. I know you’ll bring up Creative Commons, but that hasn’t quite gotten to the publishing world– yet. Plus, the professors want sources of note– Getty, National Geographic– not abc123 on Flickr.

Math books are expensive because it’s expensive to typeset equations– and digital printing is cost prohibitive for large runs of books (which seems counterintuitive, but it’s the truth).

Business books– particularly marketing books– are expensive because rights need to be acquired from every company and brand mentioned, and every case study within. It’s ridiculous.

2. Publishing companies WANT to do more ebooks, want to do more online learning, and want to move away from paper books to real learning experiences (which are more valuable to the student and even at lower prices, are more profitable). The real impediment? Professors and college departments who dig in their heels.

Who’s doing it right? Career schools. They use e-learning and custom textbooks that deliver just the material needed for the course at a lower price. That’s why their numbers are growing exponentially.

Once some of the older generations of professors retire, we might see some change. Here’s hoping.

Don Kassner

David – thanks. I hired a guy in late 2006 who has been teaching me all of this stuff. I’m really enjoying it…in fact, i’m quickly becoming a linkedin and twitter junky…. you can follow me at

To everyone else – great posts! There really are lots of options out there and I agree with Julie, utltimately its the colleges that need to drive this change – but students need to demand it so that the “administrations” will wake up.

Don Kassner
Andrew Jackson University

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

In regard to Ms. Julie’s apologia, I have worked in New York City publishing for twenty years and she’s obfuscating. While paper is expensive, printing isn’t; my firm jobs all its printing to a state-of-the-art printer in China; it’s dirt cheap. Composing and typesetting are largely automated and here again largely done abroad, in our case India. Textbook publishers simply have a license to steal.


Sinclair isn’t immune to this problem. Colleges all over charge outrageous sums for books. While at U.D, almost 20 years ago, I remember paying $75 for a used book that amounted to little more than a hard-cover leaflet.

I think the issue is magnified more with Sinclair since the tuition to book fee ratio is skewed due to lower tuition costs when compared to other schools.


Donald– Most of the printing we do is in the US, not China. That makes a difference in both price and quality. What isn’t done Stateside is done in Canada. Composing and typesetting can be automated for some titles, but not all– still need graphic designers and layout designers– and textbooks are far more complex, design-wise, than this week’s best seller. India’s only cheaper if the do the job right the first time. By that same token, don’t NY publishers have a license to steal as well? $25 for a best seller? How much of that goes to the author?

Books cost money. Digital books cost less money. Professors need to catch up with technology if prices are going to change– plain and simple.

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

Ms. Julie,

Trade publishers lose money on three out of every five acquisitions, break even on one, and turn a profit on the other. Barnes and Noble as well as Borders discount our front list upwards of 40%, online sellers even more–even below cost. Do textbook publishers do this? ‘fraid not. No one pays the cover price on a best seller


I hear you, Esrati. I bought thirteen books online for a couple of my classes that cost a total of $98. I bought two books in a university bookstore that cost $106.

David Esrati
David Esrati

$400,00 a year in savings?
Campus converts to digital texts.


My son just bought a $50.00 “textbook” which is a sheath of approx 50 unbound hole-punched shrink-wrapped pages. Nice. Real nice.

I suspect that colleges and all schools make money on books. That is that the mark-up is high, and/or publishers encourage school districts to purchase books for reasons of business and profit, and not primarily for the education of students, and college profs are encouraged to find a text book for class, whether or not it’s necessary.

I’d be very happy if you could honestly, transparently tell me that is not the case, and if you could describe how the process works, and whether or not schools have policies regarding textbooks. Thanks!


The Palace Theatre in Marion, Ohio was my very first HHPN indoor tetrhae concert experience! Of course, I’m not counting the little stage at Windsor back in 1999, because they were short shows. It’s a beautiful tetrhae (the Palace). I feel bad I have to miss it this time, but I’m looking forward to Busch!