Research | April 6

Study finds textbooks often go unused

 One in seven times, students never use a textbook purchased for a class, according to a new study published by social learning company Koofers, Inc.  

“We were surprised at how high this number is,” Koofers CEO Glynn LoPresti said in a statement. “If textbooks go unused this frequently, that’s something students really deserve to know.”

The report suggests that students spend up to $1.4 billion of the more-than-$10 billion annual textbook market on books that are never used.

Other statistics from the study show that purchased textbooks are used only “a little” 25 percent of the time, “a good amount” 28 percent of the time and “a lot” 32 percent of the time.

Koofers collected data from students attending 357 universities, including four-year, two-year, liberal arts, research, private and public institutions, said Monica Lins, the company’s communications director.

The data was based on 76,757 course reviews submitted by users from 2007 to 2010. To collect data about textbook usage, Koofers added a question to its course-rating system after students raised concerns about the issue.

Ann Tong ’13 said that she was “not surprised” by the results of the study, adding that she has spent money on textbooks she has never opened. “I just didn’t get around to reading them,” she explained.

Diana Barnes ’13 said that in certain courses, professors will assign supplemental readings that students can “get by without.”

“It makes me angry,” Barnes said. “I think it would be more responsible environmentally and financially if some professors would warn us that we would never need to use the book much. For some of the supplemental material, I feel that I could get the same information online or in the library. It’s a conspiracy with Labyrinth.”

Due to the high costs of textbooks, retailers have introduced more cost-effective methods for students to obtain them, like book-rental services and electronic books, the study explained.

“We think these new purchase methods and devices are great for students,” LoPresti said. “But we also wonder … Will they really cause students to use their textbooks more?”

Lins said the company hopes that universities will take the study’s results into account.

“We hope that universities and students will review which books are not used and determine the cause,” she explained. “This should help the professors better plan their curriculum and help students focus on the materials most important to the course.”

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