Vintage Idaho – Textbook costs in 1983


This nostalgic look at textbook costs in the early 1980s is brought to you by the 1983 Gem of the Mountains Digital Yearbook.

A Pain in the Pocketbook

As the cash register beeps away, a nervous student stands clenching his checkbook, hoping he’ll have enough money to purchase a semester’s worth of textbooks. Finally, the cashier pushes the final button and the verdict appears on the register.

“That will be $134.50,” the clerk says.

Grumbling to himself, the student fills out his check and leaves the bookstore – mourning the new low in his checking account. This scene is repeated thousands of times each semester as students flock to the bookstore to purchase required textbooks.

According to Peg Goodwin, textbook manager, the average student spends roughly $100 to $150 per semester on textbooks, with the average hardbound edition selling for about $22.

Students often receive a false impression about the textbook business, however. The bookstore’s 20% mark-up barely covers the cost of selling the books, stated Goodwin. Shipping charges and employee wages are among the costs which must be covered by the mark-up. The bookstore also loses money on the books that aren’t sold.

“Generally, it’s not textbooks that make money at a university bookstore,” Goodwin said.

Many students also think the bookstore selects the textbooks which are sold, but, according to Goodwin, faculty members make the decision.

At the end of the semester, students can return their texts for a partial refund. If the university plans to use the book the following semester, the student receives 50 percent of the current market price, even if the book was purchased used.

Books which have been discontinued by the UI, however, are purchased by the textbook company representative at a substantially lower price.

As the dilemma of expensive textbooks continues, it is (at least) comforting to know the financial burden only strikes twice a year.


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