Skip to main content

College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases

GAO-05-806 Published: Jul 29, 2005. Publicly Released: Aug 16, 2005.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


The federal government strives to make postsecondary education accessible and affordable, primarily by providing financial aid to students and their families. Given that nearly half of undergraduates receive federal financial aid, Congress is interested in the overall cost of attendance, including the cost of textbooks. We were asked to determine (1) what has been the change in textbook prices, (2) what factors have contributed to changes in textbook prices, and (3) what factors explain why a given U.S. textbook may retail outside the United States for a different price. We received technical comments from the Department of Labor. The Department of Education had no comments. The National Association of College Stores generally agreed with the report's findings. The Association of American Publishers agreed with some findings but expressed concern about the data sources we used and the characterizations made by retailers and wholesalers regarding the impact of publisher practices on students. We carefully reviewed the data sources available on college textbook pricing and found the data we used to be the most complete and reliable data available for our purposes. Additionally, we sought perspectives from publishers, retailers, and used book wholesalers to ensure our characterization of the textbook industry was balanced and complete.

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


BooksCollege studentsColleges and universitiesCost analysisEconomic analysisEducation or training costsHigher educationPrices and pricingPublishingStudents