Education to me is a necessity in life however it does come at a cost. In high school the majority of our stationery was supplied to us such as books, pencils, laptops and textbooks. Now obviously University is very different to High Schools, we are suddenly burdened by large debts, fees and supply needs and whilst studying full time this can sometimes be hard to manage with part time or casual work being a must. This stems for me the question how do people afford these necessities needed to complete study, are there other alternatives or do some people just choose to go without. For most classes a textbook or other stimulus is necessary and each year they become more expensive for the average university student. I also struggle with this pressing issue each semester, which has driven my curiosity as to how others cope. This is the reasoning that I have chosen to start my research with the question:

What percentage of students purchase retail textbooks opposed to other alternate methods?”

I believe that this topic is currently relevant to the university and other schools nation wide as textbooks are a staple item in many curriculums. Many students are not able to afford to buy brand new textbooks, many forgo buying textbooks altogether which is a worrying issue as this can put their education at a significant risk. It is important to find other alternatives to help support students in these situations

One of the problems that I may come across is that many students do not actually require textbooks for their university studies, therefor my research and data will have to come from a sample group that is relevant to my research question. I believe that my results will show people are more likely to be purchasing cheaper second hand textbooks over stimulus at retail price.

The aim of my research is to find out how many people choose not to purchase retail textbooks due to their high price range, and how they find other alternatives to purchasing textbooks. To find out this information I will be taking a small sample of university students aged 18-25 whom have compulsory textbooks to be purchased.

My primary research will be started by surveying students using the online survey website, Survey Monkey. This will give me quantitative data about how many people purchase second hand textbooks, the price they are willing to spend, i.e. will they commit to 50% or less of the RRP, and how many people don’t purchase textbooks at all. I may also complete some observational research through the university Buy, Swap and Sell pages, which is often used for textbook purchases and swaps. Following on from this I will conduct one on one interviews or focus groups to find out more information about the results and effects of buying textbooks second hand or choosing to go without.

There has been some secondary research completed about the textbook industry that I have looked into that has proven this topic to be something to consider researching about. Though many of these studies are American based and price focused there are a few Australian sources that have data I could consider looking further into. These studies have shown that the price of textbooks globally are rising at a higher rate then university fees, and are rising three times faster then the inflation rate (Bidwell, 2014)(Kingkade, 2013). This is partially caused because there in no consumer control on the market, as lecturers choose the stimulus and do not allow students to find or source other cheaper alternatives. Depending on the course that is being studied, students can pay up to $1,200 per year on textbooks alone (Bidwell, 2014), Senecks’ study showed that 65% of students said that they decided against purchasing a textbook due to cost, and that 94% of said students were concerned that doing so could jeopardise their grades.

Many students are burdened by the costs of textbooks, especially since the cost of the university necessity cannot be bundled into your HEC’s loan (Soos, 2013) with other things such as your Student Amenities Fees. An Australian student spoke to The Age about how during the lead up to university when she knows textbook costs are approaching she eats canned tuna to save money. This is a problem that students should not have to experience at the sake of their education. Australian research conducted by Universities Australia in 2013 discovered that Australian textbooks cost on average 35% more then they do overseas (Cook, 2016). This only further shows how disadvantaged we are, victims of our own education. Many students end up spending even more money due to purchasing cheaper second hand textbooks only to find that they cannot be used as they’re editions are out of date. It is predicted that a student working on minimum age would have to work 170 hours just to cover the costs of these books (Cook, 2016).

It is hard to know if there will ever be a solution to this problem, however I hope that my research can help other students know that they are not alone. My data may possibly show other opportunities that can be used to our advantage and I think that is my real goal with this project.

Looking forward to further research.

Eliza 🙂



Bidwell, Allie. “High Textbook Prices Have College Students Struggling.” US News. N.p., 28 Jan. 2014. Web. <;.

Cook, Henrietta. “Why Are Textbooks so Expensive in Australia?” The Age, Victoria. N.p., 29 Feb. 2016. Web. <;.

Kingkade, Tyler. “CHART: The INSANE Growth In College Textbook Prices.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 05 Jan. 2013. Web. <;.

  1. “Student PIRG’s.” Student PIRG’s. N.p., 2012. Web. <;.
  2. “Student PIRG’s.” Student PIRG’s. N.p., 2016. Web <;.

Soos, Phillip. “Required Reading: Here’s Why Textbooks Are so Expensive.” The Conversation. N.p., 06 Feb. 2013. Web. <;.


4 thoughts on “A Heavy Burden – Both Physical and Financial

  1. Although I personally don’t have to buy a ridiculous amount of textbooks I do relate to the difference from high school items to university. I love the way you have directed your information in the proper format of a research proposal. As a student who lives at home my parents offered to purchase any university essentials that I needed. This is simply to support my future and I’m sure there are many students in the same situation.
    The following link is part of the Abbott campaign that went on throughout 2014. Although this isn’t dealing simply with textbooks, it does assist in the understanding of how much a student’s debt will be. I believe you could incorporate something like this to inform society that students are struggling.


  2. I think that this topic is going to be beneficial to research, as it may provide information for many students who are currently unaware that there are actually alternative options to paying full price for brand-new textbooks.
    I myself have been burdened in the past by not being able to locate second-hand textbooks and have had to resort to the terrifying decision of purchasing a full priced book. I think that your project could potentially help inform of the various options (such as the UOW Buy & Sell Facebook group or photocopying a percentage of the book) for students. And all students are going to want to find out about these types of lifehacks!
    This article might be able to assist you in that it suggests alternative options to expensive textbooks, such as open resources (kind of like what we use in BCM). Have a good think about that 😉


  3. Very interesting topic as we have all have had some sort of financial burden when it comes to University!

    I found this article which talks about textbook usage and course performance;
    Something interesting to consider. If students are not buying textbooks altogether, how are they performing?

    I’m just concerned with the “as opposed to alternative methods” part of your question. This could lead to talk of piracy, which could void a lot of your primary research. I understand that you might have meant purchasing them second hand or something similar, but just consider that this might be an issue. When putting together your primary research maybe use predetermined answers when asking about alternative methods. This might reduce talk of piracy.

    Good luck!


  4. You’ve got great suggestions here. Mine is to try to find the smaller question in the mix. You’re already right that you can’t generalise about students as a whole, so you need to look at which smaller group you want to look at. Then I think it’s enough to test a really simple hypothesis: that the cost of textbooks is a problem that affects the student experience. I agree with Taner that you should steer around the “alternative methods” question in case this leads to a discussion of illegal practice. But you could try a more concise project: do students think the cost of textbooks is a) fair relative to value, and b) manageable relative to income?


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