My first textbook was published over 30 years ago. At that time students paid $14.95 for the book. That same book is in its ninth edition now and the list price to students is over $300. What happened? It is an interesting story, and if you started in publishing in the last 20 years, you may not know the whole story.
When my first book was published, my publisher set the retail price of the book; they told the bookstores what students would pay for the book, and they gave the bookstore a 20% discount on the retail price. A book with a retail price of $20, would sell to the bookstore for a net price of $16. (This is the same as setting the retail price as a 25% mark up above the net price.) But the bookstores were not happy with this arrangement, so they asked the publishers to change to what they called net pricing. With net pricing, the bookstore
pays the publisher the net price (wholesale price) of the book, and then the bookstore marks up the net price as much as they choose to get the retail price that students pay. The mark up increased from 25% to 33% almost immediately, and then it increased rom there. The result was an increase in the retail price of the book. As the price of the books increased, used books became more popular. The publishers started selling fewer books, so they raised the net price, which meant that the retail price of the book increased as well. The result was even more used books being sold. This spiraled out of control until we have the situation we have today.
In my opinion, even used textbooks today are too expensive. At XYZ Textbooks do not have the used book problem that other publishers have. Our books are reasonably price in the first place, so students are less likely to look for a used book. If they do purchase a used book, they must by a subscription to the website to access our videos and eBooks. The content of the website is valuable enough that students will buy access to our website, even when they have purchased a used print book. Because we do not have the problem with used books that other publishers have, we are able to keep our prices at a reasonable level.