Textbooks: a Pain in the Neck
October 16, 2007
Filed under News
College students may see some relief from soaring textbook prices. Senator Ellen Corbett authored legislation that would require publishers to disclose the price of the textbooks, the estimated shelf life and difference between old and new editions, allowing faculty to decide about what books are best for students. According to the Daily Collegian, the bill would make it mandatory that institutions receiving federal assistance include the ISBN and price of course books on class schedules and registration information that students see before picking classes. This new legislation is known as The College Textbooks Affordability Act SB 832. If passed, SB 832 would take effect in January. This legislation has already been passed in the Senate and is pending in the House of Representatives.
Students across this country have witnessed the price of books rise steadily over the past years. Many professors and publishers have been non empathetic toward students who are struggling to make it through college. Many college students can barely afford to pay the tuition. In addition, students are hit with high textbook prices. Many have resorted to obtaining textbooks outside of college bookstores. Besides purchasing used textbooks, websites such as Amazon and campusbooks.com have become more popular for saving money. It is common for students to purchase old editions for a discount and later have the professor require the new edition, which contains very little to no difference for triple the cost. Not all professors support the industry constantly producing new editions.
“Since I don’t profit from new editions, I feel for my students, many of them are struggling financially. They’re just trying to get that degree and the high cost of textbooks is just one more impediment,” says professor Kevin Cox. “I’m sure that publishers and authors put out new editions to kill the re-sale market. A new edition–the old edition conveniently disappears from bookstores, forcing everyone to switch–requires students to pay higher prices for essentially the same text. I can hear the publishers now. They’ll say that the new editions are improved and enhance the learning experience. Oh, please. I’ve worked with two editions of the same journalism textbook for more than five year. It’s essentially the same book. Even many of the exercises are the same.”
The San Diego Union Tribune stated that textbooks now cost students an average of $900.00 a year for each student. This amount is equal to 25 percent of the tuition and fees of the average four-year public university and 43 percent of the tuition and fees at a community college. The San Diego Union Tribune further stated that lack of competition and little student market power as reasons for rising cost of textbooks. We’ll have to wait and see if students will receive the breath of fresh air with the SB 832 Act.
“Well, it comes from a long line of well intentioned, similar bills, both at the state and federal levels. While its passage may indicate that people other than college students are finally somewhat dismayed by the apparently unstoppable rise in textbook prices, only time will tell if this legislation has any ‘teeth’ before publishing companies,” says Mesa College Professor Chris Sullivan.
San Jose Mercury News reported Senator Corbett saying, “For too long, California College students have dealt with outrageous textbook costs Publishers set the cost, faculty makes the choice and students pay the price,” Corbett added, “It is time for the textbook publishing industry to level with their consumers and end their deceptive marketing practices.”
It is uncertain whether or not this bill will have any impact on the professors. Professor Cox simply put it “Cry a river for the poor professors, but feel worse for the students. Yet my students have to pay for the new edition. Is it fair? No, but I suppose if I were the authors and publishers making the extra cash, I’d think it’s a marvelous system.” If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the College Textbook Affordability Act students are sure to be relieved while publisher will feel defeated.