College textbook prices have risen 1,041 percent since 1977, according to a recent article from NBC News.

This means that prices have increased at a rate that is more than triple the overall rate of U.S. inflation.

Some believe that the reason for such incredibly high textbook prices stems from the fact that students are “captive customers.” They have no choice but to buy the books that are assigned to them, even if that means spending much more than they want or can even afford.

“Professors are not price-sensitive and they then assign and students have no say,” said Ariel Diaz, CEO of Boundless, a free and low-cost textbook publisher, in the NBC article.

However, it seems that students are perhaps not as “captive” as some people believe. Although prices have drastically increased, average spending on course materials is down.

Laura Massie, spokeswoman for the National Association of College Stores, believes this is because students have become “savvier shoppers,” who are renting books, buying used books and cheaper digital versions and finding better deals through other retailers.

“We have definitely seen a growing trend in the number of students opting to rent their textbooks,” said Jeff Sieber, an apparel buyer at Purdue’s University Book Store. “Because of the popularity, most of our textbooks are rentable excluding lab manuals, packages with access codes, workbooks and things of that nature. Renting textbooks certainly saves the students money therefore reducing the overall amount students are spending. We now also have a larger used textbook inventory because of all the returned rentals from the previous semester.”

Sieber agrees that college students should be careful shoppers.

“(Students) need to shop around and find the best price,” Sieber said. “If you go to our website now, we actually do have a comparison tool where students can actually compare our prices with other online vendors. It’s good to be transparent.”

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