How Self-Published Textbooks Bring Down the Cost of College Education

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At Lulu.com, we’ve noticed a trend in publications from educational field leaders. In fact, 9 out of our top 20 authors for the past year published textbooks. This movement to self-publishing isn’t necessarily a big surprise when you consider the exorbitant prices of textbooks that continue to rise. USA Today reports an 82% increase in textbook prices between 2002 and 2013. The Economist also recently reported the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteen-fold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation.

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 students from more than 150 college campuses across the United States this price trend is having an increasingly negative effect:

  • 65% or respondents said that in the past they have decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.
  • Nearly half (48%) said the cost of textbooks has an impact on how many or which classes they take.
  • 94% of the students who had skipped buying a required book said they were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in that course.
Health Informatics

Professors and schools are paying attention. Rather than requiring students to pay for a textbook that contains only a few chapters of relevant information, members of the academic community are writing their own textbooks and self-publishing them. This allows instructors to publish what they teach and teach what they publish.

Self-publishing and print-on-demand technology keeps costs down. Since there is no inventory to maintain, only the books that are ordered are printed and there are fewer middlemen getting paid. Additionally, eBooks are an increasingly affordable and popular solution, since the eBook format allows professors to publish individual chapters or supplements that students can purchase as needed.

The biggest advantage with self-publishing is that textbooks can be revised and made available for purchase in real time ensuring the content is always current. This is especially important in medical, technology and other rapidly expanding fields.

If you would like to learn more, see this article in Publisher’s Weekly: Indie Authors on Campus. In it, Lulu authors Bob Hoyt and Ann Yoshihashi share their experiences self-publishing a textbook in the ever-changing field of health care and information technology.

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