Reimporting college texts

College students and bookstores find cheaper texts from overseas vendors

November 7, 2003

LevelOMeter 10 of 16
Relevant Review:
Monopoly Price Discrimination

Many students, and even college bookstores, are finding that dealers outside the U.S. sell some college textbooks for less than the same texts cost within the U.S. In some cases, the identical, new textbook costs only half as much if purchased from a dealer located outside the U.S. This is even less than the wholesale price paid by college bookstores in the U.S. Bookstores find that they can cut costs by reimporting these texts rather than buying wholesale from the publisher, and some college students have started successful businesses by reimporting texts and selling them to other students.

Some critics have claimed that this indicates that text publishers are charging unfairly high prices in the U.S. if they can afford to sell for half price in other countries. Whatever one feels about the "fairness" or "reasonableness" of what publishers are doing, it is a classic example of 3rd degree price discrimination. The Flash animation and discussion below shows how profit maximizing price discrimination can be used to explain this large difference in prices, and shows what will probably happen if reimportation of college texts becomes wide-spread.

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