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Student Textbook Spending Continues to Decline

November 5, 2020

Average student spending on textbooks and course materials continued to decline in the fall of 2020, while the number of units purchased or rented increased, according to data the research firm Student Monitor released today.

On average, students spent $186 each on textbooks and course materials this fall, down from $199 in fall 2019.

“During the fall semester of 2020, distance learning drove widespread adoption of less expensive eTextbooks in both sales and rentals -- including through subscription models -- leading to a 7 percent decline in spending as compared to the same period last year,” Eric Weil, managing partner at Student Monitor, said in a statement. “At the same time, the volume of sales increased by 3 percent, which means that students are buying more course materials than last year, but they’re purchasing less expensive digital alternatives.”

Of the average $186 a student spent, $84 went to new print textbooks, $38 was for used print textbooks and $26 was for rented print textbooks. Another $26 was spent on e-textbooks with unlimited use and $12 was for e-textbooks with limited-time use.

Student Monitor gathered data from hourlong, one-on-one interviews with 1,200 four-year, full-time undergraduates at 100 colleges. Due to the pandemic, many interviews were conducted remotely.

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