Hard-up students can afford fewer books for their money as cover prices soar and grants decline, according to a survey by a leading academic publishers.
Blackwell Retail Ltd's survey of 500 undergraduates in 20 universities found that the students spent an average of Pounds 90 a year on new textbooks, 14 per cent up on 1991.
But this money bought only 3 per cent more books. Academic book prices have risen by 9 per cent on average since 1991.
A summary of the survey, carried out by Book Marketing Ltd, described students as a "reluctant but captive market" and said that the majority of students look to their universities and/or their lecturers to provide photocopies of extracts from books. They also feel free to photocopy large chunks of text from library books.
The survey found that in any one year 8 per cent of students buy no books new or secondhand. This appears to be a fairly constant proportion, matching figures from surveys carried out in 1983 and 1991 showing zero purchasing rates of 8 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
The use of information technology as an alternative reference source is curtailed by students' lack of knowledge about accessing such data, according to the survey. It also said that many feel that on-line information is inadequate and, in some cases, untrustworthy.