Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?

Table of Contents


The price of education in the country incorporates the fees for student books, and this circumstance allows publishing companies and bookstores to establish policies for their benefit. This viewpoint is supported by Henry L. Roediger, who writes in his article Why Are Textbooks so Expensive? about the real reason why the prices keep rising. From his perspective, it is a complicated mechanism involving all the possible ways of bookselling and all participants in the process. Roediger claims that books’ physical characteristics are not connected to the trend since it is explained by the new ways that companies employ to make profits. In order to demonstrate it, the author uses ethos, logos, pathos, and kairos and builds his argument followed by a thorough analysis.

Main body

In the article, Roediger presents the common misconceptions of people regarding the prices of textbooks related to their bright colors and continuous revisions. However, according to him, these are the mere effects of the cause pertaining to bookstores’ improper policies that accept used books at half price in order to resell them (Roediger). They also collect complimentary copies from different universities for the same purpose (Roediger). The main problem here is that neither the author nor the publishing company receives profits from such operations. As a result, they have to establish a much higher price in order to not end up at a loss (Roediger). The situation is becoming more complicated over time, and it is unlikely to change without interference at the legislative level.

Throughout the article, Roediger appeals to ethos to strengthen his argument. This way, he presents the contrast between the students buying books and the professors like himself writing them. The former purchase them at an unreasonably high price while having no idea what is included in it, and the latter are published authors knowing the system from within (Roediger). This technique increases the credibility of the article’s information by referring to the author’s expertise. He also uses people’s common reaction to the issue as a counterargument, which adds to ethos used for presenting reliable information.

Another way this appeal is employed by Roediger is the pre-defined sequence of presented views. The provision of the stance opposing the author’s opinions at the beginning of the article corresponds to the incorporation of ethos in it. This approach allows to proceed to explaining why the common perceptions of the prices of textbooks for students are not entirely correct. In other words, it analyzes the roots of this misconception resulting from the confusion between the cause and the effect of the case (Roediger). Thus, the author uses both the appeal to credibility and the appeal to character. The former is seen in questioning students’ opinions, whereas the latter is in the tone of the article, which is focused on the provision of more than one viewpoint.

Adding to the inclusion of ethos, Roediger uses strong appeals to logos represented by his argument’s clarity. The logical progression of ideas goes through the whole text and leads to the conclusion that the only method to overcome the issue specified in the article is to change the law (Roediger). Hence, the author poses the problem in the first paragraph by telling about the perception of “middle-aged parents who suddenly must pay for their own children’s college textbooks” (Roediger). It is followed by the hypothetical reasons for such a situation from these people’s viewpoint, the comparison of the situation in the past and in the present, and the presentation of the main argument.

The latter’s structure is also logical since it progresses from the problem statement to its possible solution. Therefore, it starts from the way the book market works these days and goes to the description of “the great change in the landscape of higher education publishing” (Roediger). The following sub-topic is the mechanism of receiving profits by the publishing companies and the authors (Roediger). At the end of the argument, the illegal use of complimentary copies and the process of reselling books is provided.

Along with strong ethos and logos appeals, Roediger effectively incorporates pathos in his article by referring to the target audience’s beliefs, appealing to their empathy and the understanding of the participants’ benefits. In the beginning, he emphasizes the price of textbooks, thereby considering it as one of the principal values of buyers. It is complemented by their beliefs regarding the expectations from the purchased goods, which are their quality and usefulness instead of “production costs needlessly pushed up by color” (Roediger). Therefore, the perspectives of buyers are explicitly given by this appeal.

In the article, pathos is also reflected by the fact that the author uses many emotionally charged words and phrases. They help to appeal to people’s empathy and create a sympathetic image. Thus, for example, he describes the reaction to this issue as buyers “wringing their hands” and the professors who “invested time and energy” and received nothing for it (Roediger). Such techniques allow the reader to understand the perspective of both the students with their parents and the authors of textbooks. Hence, the use of pathos by Roediger adds to the article’s empathetic aspect.

The last appeal included in the article is kairos, and it highlights the timeliness of the issue and compares the situation in the past with the present-day problem. The former is conditional upon a variety of factors that influence the price changes for textbooks. They include the emergence of the used book market, the campus bookstores that “turned into carnivals,” and the policies of stores that “aggressively raised the percentage markup on the net price” (Roediger). This way, the author explains the timeliness of problems in the book business.

In turn, the latter is seen in the provision of exact dates that explains the argument’s appropriateness regarding the development of the issue. In the article, it is stated that in the late 1960s, during the author’s college years, there was no such problem (Roediger). It emerged only in 1981, when the first bookstores selling used books were opened (Roediger). This approach allows the reader to trace the issue’s progress over time and adds to the article’s reliability.


To sum up, Roediger efficiently employs ethos, logos, pathos, and kairos in his publication. Their combination allows to ensure the trustworthiness of data and demonstrate the timeliness of the problem. It also contributes to the logical structure facilitating comprehension and promotes empathy regarding the understanding of the issue of improper use of books from the perspectives of all participants of the process. Thus, the article can be considered as an effective piece of writing delivering information with the use of all appeals.

Work Cited

Roediger, Henry L., III. Association for Psychological Science, 2005, Web.

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