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The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) says that a lack of competition between book shops in some areas and inflation, have resulted in significant variations in the cost of textbooks for schools islandwide.
CAC Research Officer and Economist, Racquel Chambers, said that a survey of 101 books in 64 outlets, showed a nine percent increase in average prices, islandwide, compared with 2008, although there were reductions on a small number of the books.
“We noticed some price reductions in a small number of texts, this is as a result of some books that were old stock. Some books also were revised,” she explained.
Mrs. Chambers was speaking at the CAC’s annual media briefing on the results of its 2009 textbook survey, at the Courtleigh Hotel, New Kingston, Tuesday (August 11).
She said that 69 per cent of textbooks showed increases of 19 per cent or less, when compared to 2008. Of these, 39 per cent showed increases of one to 10 per cent. Specifically, the CAC found notable increases in the greater Kingston Metropolitan Area (including Spanish Town and Portmore).
Among mathematics books, 38 per cent had average increases of between 1 and 10 per cent, while 50% of social studies books showed increases of 21-30 percent.
In the Corporate Area (Kingston and St. Andrew) literature books had the widest price variations.
“That’s because even though the text is the same, there were differences in terms of the publisher, whether or not they contained textual notes, or whether it was hardcover,” she said.

Research Officer/Economist at the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Racquel Chambers, outlines the findings of the CAC’s 2009 Textbook Survey at the media briefing held at the Courtleigh Hotel, New Kingston, Thursday (August 11). Chief Executive Officer of the CAC, Dolsie Allen, is seated at left.

Mrs. Chambers noted that 58 per cent of secondary level textbooks, and 53 per cent of primary level text books, within the KMA showed increases of between one and 20 per cent. Of these, 43 per cent of secondary level texts increased between one and 10 per cent, while 43 primary level texts increased between 11- 20 per cent.
For other urban towns, there were wide variations due to distance and lack of competitiveness.
“So for example, for one particular text, in Mandeville it was for $2,939, but in St. James it was for $4,188,” Mrs. Chambers cited.
She said that the survey also revealed that while less than 50 per cent of the shops surveyed had secondary level books, primary level textbooks were readily available.
“When we spoke to the bookstores, they indicated that they purchase their books based on the purchasing patterns of consumers. Usually around the end of July, most parents would purchase the primary level books, and towards August and the first week in September, they would purchase the secondary level books,” she pointed out.
The survey also compared typical booklists from 2008 and found that at the secondary level 5th form (11th grade), most of the increases were 10-13 per cent over last year.
“However, when we looked at the primary level books, the increase was 19-21percent on average. But, we found instances of a typical Grade Six GSAT level and Grade Four level, that the parent would have to pay up to 27 and 31per cent more for the same books that they could have purchased last year,” she outlined.
The survey was conducted July 27 to 28. It aims to provide parents and guardians with information to support the cost-effective purchase of textbooks, and present researched evidence on textbooks as critical consumer items.

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