Ten years ago CBS News published a list of the 12 highest-prices college textbooks in America. Ten years later, how have their values held up?
They certainly sound intimidating, and the prices make them doubly so. The list of books from CBSNews MoneyWatch:
Highest Priced College Textbooks in 2010
- Acta Philosophorum The First Journal of Philosophy: $1,450
- Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications: $1,215
- Management Science An Anthology: $850
- History of Early Film: $740
- Biostatistical Genetics and Genetic Epidemiology: $665
- Companion Encyclopedia of Psychology: $600
- Feminism and Politics: $600
- Concepts and Design of Chemical Reactors: $593
- Advanced Semiconductor and Organic Nano-Techniques: $570
- Ethics in Business and Economics: $550
- Environment in the New Global Economy: $510
- Solid State Chemistry and Its Applications: $500
2010's Highest Priced Books in 2020
- Acta Philosophorum The First Journal of Philosophy: $60
- Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications: $260
- Management Science An Anthology: $20
- History of Early Film: $650
- Biostatistical Genetics and Genetic Epidemiology: $50
- Companion Encyclopedia of Psychology: $30
- Feminism and Politics: $5
- Concepts and Design of Chemical Reactors: $60
- Advanced Semiconductor and Organic Nano-Techniques: $290
- Ethics in Business and Economics: $175
- Environment in the New Global Economy: $15
- Solid State Chemistry and Its Applications: $20
It looks like the big losers are Environment in the New Global Economy and Feminism and Politics. Go figure.
And Ethics in Business and Economics is next to nowhere to be found anymore. The jokes, they write themselves folks. But I've checked a number of places manually, and it seems to only be for sale in one marketplace. That in and of itself is pretty odd. It's a multi-volume set however, so it is likely difficult to keep them all together.
Books like the Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications are even more confusing, as directories would be expected to change quickly with time. But the value has held firm for the last decade.
The History of Early Film is the biggest winner in terms of holding its value, and to some degree it makes sense. Very little would have changed over the past decade in the events of a century past. It also appears to be a nice-looking set of books as well.
Advanced Semiconductor and Organic Nano-Techniques held up surprisingly well, in a field that one would expect to be changing the most rapidly. I can't imagine a textbook over a decade old being applicable to today's semiconductor industry. But I learned computer science in Pascal in the 90s, so maybe college is just behind the times in general.
Acta Philosophorum is sort of the most interesting case here, I have marked it as $60, but there is supposedly a new copy on Amazon for $10.
This two-tome set of six volumes is a collection of the thoughts on philosophy in Germany in the early 18th century. It is eleven pounds, and over 3000 pages. Shipping alone is likely more expensive than the entire purchase price.
On the other end of the spectrum, the cheapest copy available on eBay is $1000. So that is a gamut of about one order of magnitude in prices. It sounds mind-numbingly dry, but at ten dollars it ought to make my bookshelf look impressive. I might have to.
Overall it is a very mixed bag, about two-thirds of the books ending up worthless, and the rest of them staying pretty expensive.
If there's a takeaway from all of this, it is that unless you want to keep the book forever, you should sell it back immediately when you're done.
Because the prices are not likely to hold up forever.