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Are Durable Goods Consumers Forward Looking? Evidence from College Textbooks

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  • Judith Chevalier
  • Austan Goolsbee

Abstract

Popular wisdom holds that publishers revise college textbooks mainly to kill off the secondary market for used books. While this behavior might be profitable if consumers are myopic, uninformed or have high short-run discount rates (that exceed the publishers'), neoclassical authors have noted that it will typically not be profitable if publishers can precommit not to cut prices and if consumers are forward-looking and have similar discount rates as the publishers; the consumer's willingness to pay for new books falls if they know that they cannot resell their used books. Using a large new dataset on all textbooks sold in psychology, biology and economics in the 10 semesters from 1997 to 2001, we estimate a demand system for books to test whether textbook consumers are forward-looking. The data strongly support the view that students are forward-looking with low short-run discount rates and that they have rational expectations of publishers' revision behavior. When the students buy their textbooks, they correctly take into account the probability that they will not be able to resell their books at the end of the semester due to a new edition release. Conditional on faculty assignment behavior, simulation results suggest that students are sufficiently forward-looking that publishers could not raise revenues by accelerating current revision cycles.

Suggested Citation

  • Judith Chevalier & Austan Goolsbee, 2005. "Are Durable Goods Consumers Forward Looking? Evidence from College Textbooks," NBER Working Papers 11421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11421
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Julie Holland Mortimer, 2005. "Price Discrimination, Copyright Law, and Technological Innovation: Evidence from the Introduction of DVDs," NBER Working Papers 11676, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Cabolis, Christos & Clerides, Sofronis & Ioannou, Ioannis & Senft, Daniel, 2007. "A textbook example of international price discrimination," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 91-95, April.
    3. Jean-Pierre H. Dube & Günter J. Hitsch & Pranav Jindal, 2012. "The Joint Identification of Utility and Discount Functions From Stated Choice Data: An Application to Durable Goods Adoption," NBER Working Papers 18393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Aviva Aron-Dine & Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Mark R. Cullen, 2012. "Moral Hazard in Health Insurance: How Important Is Forward Looking Behavior?," NBER Working Papers 17802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Raymond Deneckere & Meng-Yu Liang, 2008. "Imperfect durability and the Coase conjecture," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 1-19.
    6. Jean-Pierre Dubé & Günter Hitsch & Pranav Jindal, 2014. "The Joint identification of utility and discount functions from stated choice data: An application to durable goods adoption," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 331-377, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • L6 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics

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