The Assn. of American Publishers, which represents the nation's college textbook industry, says prices have held steady in recent years and disputes the notion that book costs are too high. It points to research showing that typical students at four-year colleges paid $644 for textbooks last year, far less than the College Board estimates and only about one-third of what students spent on entertainment.
"The real outrage should be directed at the suggestion that textbooks are a legitimate place to scrimp," Patricia Schroeder, a former Colorado congresswoman who is the association's president, wrote in a recent newspaper commentary.
In addition, the association says publishers revise texts about every four years and often include CDs and workbooks to update content and take advantage of new educational technologies, not to boost profits.
But Humboldt State's Christensen, a 24-year-old from Lake Forest in Orange County, doesn't buy those arguments. Christensen, who relies on a scholarship, grants, loans and a 20-hour-a-week job to pay for his education, has honed his skills at saving. This term he bought a used book from another student for $5 instead of getting it new for $22.