“The College Board recently estimated that the average student spends upwards of $1,200 per year on textbooks. (This figure is much higher for students at for-profit colleges and trade schools.) But American schools in the 19th century used the same books for all grade levels, mainly as a memorization tool. Textbooks then began to take precedence over instructors, as high school and college courses increasingly became structured around a book’s table of contents in the early 1930’s. The books were cheap and were reused for decades; publishers prided themselves on the durability and longevity of their products.
At some point during the 1970s, books started to get expensive. Publishers capitalized on professors’ willingness to adapt new editions of a book every two or three years. Textbooks became less about educating the masses and more about exclusivity and profitability. By the 1990s, the textbook market was an oligopoly, and prices skyrocketed.”