UK-based Perlego is making textbooks cheaper for university students
Would you subscribe to the "Spotify" for textbooks? Source: Jazmin Quaynor/Unsplash

This is a familiar scenario for university students worldwide: spending tonnes of money on textbooks you’ll probably end up using only once.

Textbooks are expensive – in some instances, they can cost up to US$200 (£154) or more per textbook – and are a quintessential part of university life. Depending on your major, you may have a wide reading list, while newer versions of textbooks are constantly being released, adding to students’ frustrations.

In the US, a survey by the College Board estimates that undergraduate students can expect to spend between US$1,240 (£934) and US$1,440 (£1,085) on books and supplies for the 2018-2019 academic year. Meanwhile, in the UK, website Save the Student’s annual National Student Money Survey found that UK students spend an average of £20 (US$27) a month on books alone.

A 2015 report from Priceonomics notes that the prices of textbooks for certain majors are “particularly high”, with Economics classes leading the pack as the most expensive books per class at [US]$317 (£240) per class. They note that sciences or social sciences typically have more expensive books than the humanities.

For students who must already live a frugal existence, this can be financially stressful. While options such as buying second-hand or borrowing textbooks from the library are the norm, these are usually limited in number, meaning some students might resort to unscrupulous practices, such as photocopying or illegally downloading free PDF textbooks online to save costs.

However, students who are looking to reduce the amount of money spent on textbooks without turning to illegal means can use Perlego.

Dubbed the ‘Spotify for textbooks’, this online subscription service costs £12 (US$16) per month for students, and gives subscribers unlimited access to over 200,000 titles, including a range of textbooks and non-fiction books. According to its website, Perlego also has a referencing tool which students can copy and paste to reference eBooks.

In a BBC interview, Perlego founder and CEO Gauthier Van Malderen said: “Being a recent former student myself, one of the biggest issues I encountered were the expensive price of textbooks – I’d buy an accounting book worth £200, read two chapters in the book and never used it again.”

He added that they have over a quarter of a million titles that subscribers can access for the price of a single book, while they also have non-fiction titles, such as topics on sales and leadership, which are popular among businesses.   

Perlego is currently available in Europe, but is looking into expanding its services to other countries.

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