Back at the beginning of time, well, to be honest Rabett Run, but did anything exist before, Eli had two excellent rants (Rant I and Rant II) about textbook prices and the machinations of the publishers. With the new term, the new students, and the new higher prices, it is time to revisit the problem. As you may have noticed in the US when your kid goes to college, the price of General Chemistry textbooks new is threatening the $200 barrier.
Our text, Brown, LeMay and a couple of other authors added later, Chemistry: the Central Science, is OK. A good, middle of the road textbook. As a reformed physicist, Eli would prefer an atoms first approach but there are also chemists teaching the course. Recommended retail cost $194. You can do about $150 at Amazon. If you sell it in very good condition after taking the course, you get about $80 back. If a student buys it new at the college bookstore their net cost is $110, buy it at Amazon and the net cost is $70. Keep those numbers in mind. At this point Eli will scream, please put your sunglasses on:
ELI WANTS HIS STUDENT TO KEEP THEIR BOOKS.
But, dear bunnies, let us look at this from the standpoint of the publisher. The current strategy is to make a maximum profit on each book. Since the people who order the books, the professors, don't buy it (see Rants), their is no restraint on prices. Contrast this with the K-12 market where the schools buy the textbooks. In that case the cost is pushed down to the limit.
On the other hand, in markets where students are free to buy their own books, the price is much lower. For example, the International paperback edition (you can only get the hardcover in the US) costs ~$80 list and you can get it discounted. That means that by selling the paperback in the US Pearson could kill the used book market and double their volume, not have the expense of putting out a new edition every three years or so, and very probably make more money and the students would, even on net, pay less and might keep their books.
At RSU, we have tried to approach this problem by contracting for a special edition which only includes the chapters we use and costs ~2/3 of the full edition. General Chemistry books are kitchen sinks, with every possible chapter because the absence of material near and dear to some professor could kill a sale. This also means that you need to lift weights to carry the thing to class (OK, it weighs 2.75 kg, but no one is going to carry it around). The resale value is not as high, but neither was the cost. We also had it bundled with a cut down lab manual (only the experiments that we do). We wish we could order the international edition for our students but it cannot legally be imported.
Make it so.