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A Brief History of the College Textbook Pricing Racket | Atlas Obscura

A version of this post originally appeared on Tedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.

When I recently wrote about airport stores, one of the most interesting (albeit minor) facets of the piece was the fact that airport travelers are generally considered a captive audience, making it easy for shops to jack up prices.

Airports, though, are amateur hour compared to the college textbook industry.

Any industry that can increase its prices by 1,041 percent over a 38-year period—as the textbook industry did between 1977 and 2015, according to an NBC News analysis—is one that knows how to keep, and hold, an audience. (It’s almost like they’re selling EpiPens.)

And, as students across the country return to school, this is probably the perfect time of year to ask: Was it always this way? The answer: no, and you can blame a big shift in the ’70s.

Like graphing calculators, textbooks have a price that’s artificially inflated based on its use case.

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A Brief History of the College Textbook Pricing Racket | Atlas Obscura.