• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The Rising Cost of Books

ByElla Clamp

Feb 12, 2023
Pile of student guide books

I recall being in my second year as a literature student, strolling through Armchair Books—a whimsically lit second-hand bookstore on West Port Street, Edinburgh, only to walk past the essential classics for my course due to the expense. So, book prices are increasing; what ought to be done? 

According to Sarah Shafi’s piece in The Guardian, book prices will increase by upwards of 20% in the coming years (Shaffi 2022). Despite this figure, which UK publishers estimate is a result of high production costs, there has been little discussion of the effects on students or any progress toward a solution. In light of this, I sought out students at Edinburgh university and elsewhere to inquire about the effects of rising book costs in Edinburgh and Aberdeen on their academic endeavours and well-being.

“As a disadvantaged student from the rural island of Shetland, I’ve had to reconsider buying groceries for some course books that cost at least 20 pounds most of the time. It’s pretty unsettling,” says Andrew Fourteeth, a 20-year-old anthropology student at the University of Aberdeen. He later told me that to afford books, he needed to get a job that required him to miss lectures during the week. As a direct consequence, the high cost of books has a detrimental impact on students, causing stress and disrupting their studies by requiring them to work part-time while also studying full-time.

Rosa Kim, a 19-year-old student at The University of Edinburgh studying government policy and society, adds, “I am currently applying for several jobs to balance the costs of living and going to university,” further revealing the negative impact on students. Surely, something must be done about this. A university bursary to support literature-based courses would be the most practical and cost-effective way for students to study while better balancing living expenses in the age of rising book prices. When asked, both Kim and Fourteeth supported the idea of a bursary to help book costs, and the idea provided them with comfort. This issue is especially relevant with the recent inflation of living costs increasing by an astronomical 11.9% for disadvantaged people in October 2022 (Office for national statistics 2022).

Some might enquire, what about the accessibility of libraries? Can’t students just go there? Libraries are not always open 24 hours a day and only have a limited number of copies of a particular book. Picture this: it’s 11 p.m. the night before an essay is due (we’ve all been there), and you need a novel for a book review, but you check the availability online, and it’s taken. Oh, the dread! A few copies of a main course text are insufficient to supply an entire course of hundreds of students who need to read the same book, necessitating the purchase of the texts. It causes distress and financial difficulties in everyday life, and frankly, it detracts from the university vibe to have to buy a second-hand e-book on kindle at 3 am when you desire the dark academia aesthetic and the pleasure of a real book in your hand. 

There are profound consequences that rising book prices are having on students’ mental health, grades, and general well-being. A simple but very effective solution would be to include a student bursary.

Image Credit: Book costs” by giulia.forsythe is licensed under CC BY 2.0.