Vox: “…A 2014 report by the Public Interest Research Groups [PIRG] found that two-thirds of surveyed students had skipped buying or renting some of their required course materials because they couldn’t afford them.Textbook publishers, for their part, have begun acknowledging that textbooks and other course materials have become so expensive that some students simply can’t afford them, even if it means their grades will suffer as a result. Publishers claim that new technologies, like digital textbooks and Netflix-style subscription services, make textbooks more affordable for all. But affordability advocates say that if anyone is to blame for the fact that textbook costs have risen more than 1,000 percent since the 1970s, it’s the publishers — and, advocates claim, these new technologies are publishers’ attempt to maintain their stranglehold on the industry while disguising it as reform…Textbook costs increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to the BLS report. The College Board suggests that students set aside $1,200 each year for books and other course materials, which can be an exorbitant amount of money for students who come from low-income backgrounds.
… Four major publishers — Pearson, Cengage, Wiley, and McGraw-Hill — control more than 80 percent of the market, according to a 2016 PIRG report [see the 2018 report here]. Major publishers also tend to “avoid publishing books in subject areas where their competitors have found success,” which ends up limiting professors’ options for what to assign…”