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April 13, 2004

Overpriced Textbooks?

Democrats are beginning to complain about supposedly overpriced college textbooks. Arnold Kling offers the following:

Textbooks are like prescription drugs. On a benefit-cost basis, they are cheap. However, comparing price to marginal cost of production, they are expensive, because most of the cost of producing a textbook is up front. The writer needs to obtain the knowledge and develop the examples to convey that knowledge. The publisher must cover the cost of funding projects that fail with profits on those that succeed.

I think that nowadays it would be more efficient for professors to produce single chapters than entire textbooks. When you write an entire textbook, you inevitably get into areas that are not your comparative advantage. In fact, you are forced by the market to get into topics that you don't even think are worth covering.

I wonder if the new capitalist villain is going to be Big Textbook? You heard it here first.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 09:54 AM | Permalink


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