Grumblings over high textbook prices heard all over college bookstores at the beginning of every semester will not be absent in California. The Textbook Affordability Act (SB 832) was placed on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk to be signed into effect by October 14th.

SB 832 would have aided students in keeping down the cost of textbooks by making teachers more involved in the process. The bill would have forced publishers to publish the price of a textbook and a list of the changes between editions when the books are shown to professors, who will decide which to use for the semester. According to a report by the California Student Public Interest Research Group, 94 percent of professors would take price into consideration when choosing a textbook, but only 38 percent of faculty members actually received an answer from publishers when they asked how much a textbook cost. The Textbook Affordability Act would have made sure that publishers could no longer beat around the bush when asked about prices, and would have taken effect immediately.

Much to the dismay of college students and CampusBooks.com alike, Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill on October 14th, saying that SB 832 "fails to recognize that the affordability of textbooks is a shared responsibility among publishers, college bookstores, and faculty members." Instead he signed the College Textbook Transparency Act (AB 1548), which has the same idea as SB 832, but does not take effect until the year 2010. The College Textbook Transparency Act and the Textbook Affordability Act are similar, but AB 1548 requires that faculty submit requests to publishers for the prices in order to get them.

If faculty were able to see the full information (i.e. price and what changed between editions) they would likely be able to make sound decisions more quickly, which would have left students with more time to shop around for the book and to order online for cheaper prices. Even with very little time left to order books, many of CampusBooks.com's bookstore partners can ship overnight and we still display the cheapest prices for textbooks, no matter what state you are in.

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Allen, Nicole. “Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes the College Textbook Affordability Act.” CALPIRG. 15 OCT 2007. CALPIRG. 29 Oct 2007. <http://www.calpirg.org/news-releases/affordable-higher-education/affordable-higher-education/gov.-schwarzenegger-vetoes-the-college-textbook-affordability-act>

Tran, Kory. “Gov. signs one textbook act, vetoes another.” Golden Gate Xpress Online 14 OCT 2007 29 OCT 2007 <http://xpress.sfsu.edu/archives/news/009238.html>


Student-run Web site crimsonreading.org is raising a furor over Harvard Coop's refusal to hand over a list of books that Harvard College students need to purchase for their classes. Crimsonreading.org aims to provide cheaper alternative sources for obtaining the textbooks. The college bookstore's refusal to release the booklist has many students feeling indignant over what is perceived as an unjust monopoly of student purchasing dollars.

The Harvard Coop insists they are only protecting proprietary information that takes considerable manpower and time to compile.

“The issue is, why should we give it out to anybody, particularly the competitors?” said Coop president Jeremiah Murphy.

While the battle continues with the staff of crimsonreading.org passing out flyers in front of the Coop, some Harvard students will have to pick classes based on the price of the required textbooks, or not buy the textbooks at all.

CampusBooks.com is currently working on solving the problem of obtaining textbook lists from college bookstores nationwide. Some bookstores, such as the UCLA store, have been very cooperative about sending in their lists. Other stores have refused. At Campusbooks.com, we are currently working on a campaign to ensure that we obtain as many book lists as possible, in order to aid students in keeping down the already astronomical cost of attending college. If you would like us to work on acquiring your college's booklist, please send us an email at help@campusbooks.com.

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Source:

Wertheimer, Linda K.. “In Harvard Square, a war over words.” The Boston Globe 26 SEP 2007 29 SEP 2007 <http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2007/09/26/in_harvard_square_a_war_over_words/>.


This blog is the last of the three-part blog series on why textbooks are so expensive. Hopefully CampusBooks.com has been able to clue you in to different perspectives on the textbook debate that you may not have otherwise considered.

From the Bookstores' Standpoint:

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), only 22.4 cents of every textbook dollar actually goes to the bookstore. Of those 22.4 cents, only 4.4 cents (pre-tax) are actually profit. The rest of the 22.4 cents goes to pay overhead costs and employee wages.

Many students have expressed frustration with the college bookstores because they see online retailers who sell the international versions of their books for much lower prices than the college bookstore. Because of this, they assume that the bookstore is overcharging them in order to make higher profits. According to the NACS however, it is the publisher's decision to sell books at such a low rate internationally. The NACS supports a "one-price" policy that would ensure that U.S. students don't have to pay more than their international counterparts. NACS's official stance is that "U.S. students should not, by themselves, bear the sole burden of course material development costs or suffer the consequences of underdeveloped countries’ inability or unwillingness to enforce copyright laws."

We hope the three viewpoints we've presented to you, from the author, publisher, and bookstore, have given you more insight to the textbook industry so understand where your textbook dollar goes. No matter who you believe, rest assured that CampusBooks is always working hard to give you the easiest way to find and buy cheap textbooks.
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Source:

NACS, “FAQ on College Textbooks.” JUNE 2007. National Association of College Stores. 8 Aug 2007. http://www.nacs.org/common/research/faq_textbooks.pdf

NACS, “FAQ on College Textbooks.” JUNE 2007. National Association of College Stores. 8 Aug 2007. http://www.nacs.org/common/research/textbook$.pdf


Textbook Publishers: Battling False Facts?

This is the second part of a three-part blog series exploring the possible causes of high textbook prices. Price gouging by textbook publishers is often cited as the reason that textbook prices are sky high. Here, we present the textbook publishers side of the story on why textbooks are so expensive. Are textbook publishers really gouging college students? You be the judge.

From a Publisher's Standpoint

Everyone always blames the publisher. Why are textbooks so expensive? Because the "evil" publishers raise the prices, print unnecessary editions, bundle textbooks with useless CDs—all to price gouge the struggling student who is just trying to get an education. The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a public advocacy group, is one proponent of such views.

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), however, the PIRG ignores the facts and uses figures that no independent research can back up. "PIRG just doesn’t let the facts get in their way," asserts Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the AAP.

Here are some examples of PIRG discrepancies according to the AAP:

PIRG: Textbooks are sold for less in overseas markets.
AAP: Yes, books sold overseas are cheaper, but that is because they are priced to the individual markets. These sales, while small, help publishers recoup some of their investment in producing a textbook. Without overseas sales, the entire price of production would fall on U.S. students, forcing up the price they pay.

PIRG: Pearson’s new 6th Campbell’s Biology was found to be 97 percent more expensive than a used copy.
AAP: New textbooks–like new cars and most other consumer products–cost more when they are new! On average, used textbooks are sold in bookstores at 75 percent of the price of a new book.

PIRG: Thomas Learning should produce an online version of their Calculus textbook.
AAP Assertion: Publishers have produced hundreds of online books, but there is virtually no demand for online textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores.

The AAP maintains that they are just a business giving the consumer (i.e. professors and students) what they want and need. They are not in the business of making outrageous profits. Professors have free choice to choose the textbook for their classes. According to a study by third-party researchers Zogby International, 38 percent of college professors said they were satisfied with how frequently new textbook editions were released, or that they were not released frequently enough.

Ed. Note: Check back for the conclusion of our three-part blog–an explanation from your college bookstore addressing why textbooks are so expensive. Then you can be the judge as to the real reason why textbooks are so expensive.

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Sources:

Hildebrand, Bruce. “AAP Press Center.” AAP-The Association of American Publishers. 25 APR 2005. Association of American Publishers. 27 Jul 2007 http://publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2005_April/April_01.htm.


Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?

CampusBooks.com is here to save you money on textbooks so we are doing a three-part blog on the real reasons why textbooks cost so much—from three different points of view: a college professor and textbook author, the textbook publishers and the college bookstores. We hope this information will help you understand the reasons textbooks are so expensive.

From an Author's Standpoint

Henry L. Roediger III, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and a textbook author, wrote an article on high textbook prices for the Academic Observer. According to Roediger, textbooks are more expensive because of the recent popularity of the used textbook market. He cited the used textbook market as a problem not due to students selling to each other, but to the massive buying of textbooks by used book wholesalers who then ship the book to another campus where it will be used next year. The textbook wholesalers, some of which own the bookstore, buy textbooks from students at a small fraction of the price that the students pay and then sell the books back to the next batch of students at an inflated "used book" price. This cycle results in publishers and authors not getting fair payments for their work in producing the textbooks. Roediger compared the practice to vendors who sell pirated music and do not pay royalties to record labels or artists. The only difference, he pointed out, is that the used textbook industry is legal and music pirating is not.

Here is a concrete example that he provided:

His book, Experimental Psychology: Understanding Psychological Research, was published by Wadsworth Publishing Company. The bookstore pays the company $73.50 for the new book. The authors receive 15 percent royalties on the book, so the three authors split the $11 royalty, and the publisher gets the rest. However, at the Washington University bookstore, the list price of the book is $99.75, a markup of $26.25 (or 35.7 percent). The authors get $11.02 for their work whereas the bookstore makes $26.25 gross profit per book.

When a student sells his or her textbook at buyback, the bookstore buys it back at a greatly marked down price, somewhere between 25 and 50 percent. Let’s assume that Experimental Psychology is bought back for 40 percent of the new book price (which is a generous assumption). That buyback price would be $39.90. After buying it, the bookstore will mark it up dramatically and resell the book. Suppose the used book is sold by the store for $75, which sounds like a bargain relative to the new book price of $99.75. The profit markup for the bookstore on this used book would be $35.10, which is even higher than the (still very large) profit made on the new book ($26.25). So on the second (and third and fourth, etc.) sales of the same book, the bookstore and used book company make large cumulative profits while the publishers and authors get no additional revenue.

According to Roediger, textbook publishers have little options when dealing with the loss in profits. They are forced to raise the prices of textbooks in an attempt to recuperate their initial investment. Publishers revise books often because they want to make sure book profits will accrue to the publisher and author, not the bookstores.

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Source:

Roediger III, H (January 2005). Why are textbooks so expensive. Observer, 18, Retrieved July 23, 2007, from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=1712


College Bookstores Fight Textbook Legislation

This year alone, 86 textbook bills have been introduced in 26 states, according to the National Association of College Stores (NACS). NACS is starting to feel the heat, as evidenced by the launch of their online Legislative Action Center, a grassroots campaign to help their college bookstore members locate and contact state and federal legislators to influence proposed textbook legislation. NACS also has a field office in Washington D.C., which they claim is engaged in all levels of the policymaking process.

According to NACS Chief Operating Officer Brian Cartier, legislators are looking to influence the way bookstores do business without proposing any real remedies to improve textbook affordability. For this reason, Cartier advises NACS members to get involved with proposed legislative actions that would affect college stores.

CampusBooks.com Inc. differs from NACS in that we believe any legislation aiming to make textbooks more affordable for students is worth investigating. Making textbooks and education more affordable is the mission of CampusBooks.com, and it's the reason we continue to search for innovative features to add to the site in order to better serve college students. For a more personal look at CampusBooks.com, check out the CampusBooks.com MySpace page and add us as a friend: http://www.myspace.com/campusbooks.

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Source:

Moore, Yalinda. ” NACS CEO on Government Relations.” Campus Marketplace 13 JUL 2007 16 JUL 2007. http://www.nacs.org/news/071307-mytake.asp?id=cm


Free Textbooks for All?

Students and readers alike can now download, print and distribute almost 750,000 e-books for free from the World eBook Fair. The eBook Fair is sponsored by The World Public Library Consortia, one of the largest providers of e-books online. Founded in 1996, the World Electronic Book Library Consortia is a global effort to preserve and disseminate classic works, commercial books, textbooks, encyclopedias and other reference works in an array of languages to a worldwide public.

The World eBook Fair will last from July 4th to Aug. 4th,, during which time users can legally download any book they want from the 125 vast collections available. The e-books, which include instructional materials, government documents and textbooks, can be read with Adobe Reader. To access the World eBook Fair, visit http://www.worldebookfair.com/.

This great project is a breath of fresh air for students' suffocating wallets. It is perfect for those that need commonly published and out-of-copyright books, such as "A Tale of Two Cities" or "Pride and Prejudice," but unfortunately, students looking for current textbooks on the eBook Fair Web site will likely be disappointed. Since textbooks are copyrighted, the only ones available for free are the antiquated texts.

So until textbooks are free for all, let Campusbooks.com help you find the cheapest price available for your textbooks! See a sample comparison page of the textbook "Biology" by Campbell and Reece. Retail price for that book is $158.67. Lowest price on CampusBooks.com? $50.99 — for a brand new book!

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Source:

The World eBook Fair: http://www.worldebookfair.com/

The World Public Library Consortia: http://worldpubliclibrary.org/AboutUs.htm


Rival Bookstore Sues WVU Bookstore for $2 Million Monopoly

A bookstore that serves the students of West Virginia University (WVU) has sued the university and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc. for monopolizing the textbook sales market in the WVU area.

The Book Exchange filed the suit on June 8, claiming that WVU's practice of withholding a portion of students' financial aid money for use specifically at school bookstores limits the choices students have for purchasing cheap textbooks. The practice of withholding financial aid money began in August 2005, right before a lease contract between WVU stores and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc. was renewed for a second five-year term in 2006.

According to the lawsuit, WVU sent an email to its students on Dec. 13, 2005 informing them that "an amount up to $500 has been reserved on account at the bookstore." Students that did not want the bookstore to take that money were to remove themselves from the program by Dec. 16. Students who did not remove themselves were unable to spend a portion of their financial aid money on textbooks from The Book Exchange or any other textbook-purchasing alternative.

In the lawsuit, The Book Exchange accuses WVU of violating West Virginia Code by redirecting students' financial aid money to the campus bookstore and preventing them from obtaining the textbooks at lower-cost alternatives like The Book Exchange. The suit also alleges that the automatic withholding of funds was intended to monopolize the market of selling textbooks to financial aid students.

The Book Exchange is seeking more than $2 million dollars from the defendants for lost revenue and punitive damages.

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Source:

Bailey, Cara. “Bookstore sues WVU for monopoly, seeks $2 million.” The West Virginia Record 15 June 2007. 19 June 2007. http://www.wvrecord.com/news/196757-bookstore-sues-wvu-for-monopoly-seeks-2-million


Textbooks Used to Promote Global Peace

Educational experts from Europe and the Arab states are meeting on June 14th and 15th to discuss the instructional design of textbooks that encourage peace-building and global citizenship. The meeting, titled "Thinking and Building Peace Through Innovative Textbook Design," is sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

According to the UNESCO, the 25 researchers, textbook authors and textbook publishers aim to "produce guidelines for promoting peace and intercultural understanding through curricula, textbooks and learning media within the UNESCO-ISESCO Cooperation Programme." The discussions are to focus on practical ways of incorporating the concepts, attitudes and skills for global understanding into textbooks and other learning materials. The meeting will also serve as support for actions already in place for content analysis and revision of textbooks in the two regions.

UNESCO/IBE's publication Textbooks and Quality Learning for All: Some Lessons Learned from International Experiences (2006, Eds Cecilia Braslavsky and Katya Hall) will be launched during the meeting.

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Source:

Bernard, J.. “Experts discuss textbooks as instruments for peace.” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization . 14 Jun 2007. http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=53469&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html



Technology Costs Students, Then Saves Them

Technology has once again proven to be friend and foe. The advent of high-tech interactive learning materials has prompted its addition (along with a price increase) to college textbooks—without the consent of the average college student. On the other hand, new developments in technology are now allowing students to access e-books and other downloadable learning materials for only a fraction of the traditional textbook price, if not for free.

Critics of the textbook industry claim that the practice of bundling textbooks with special Web site access and interactive tools such as CDs and DVDs is just another excuse for raising textbook prices. The standardized bundles force students to buy bundled textbooks whether they want the interactive materials or not. Furthermore, when students go to sell the textbooks back at the end of the year, they are often either unable to do so, or have to settle for a lower buyback price because the interactive tools and Web site access can only be used once with the special code. Publishers argue that the textbook bundles are meant to enhance the learning experience by supplementing passive learning (reading) with active learning (interactive tools). Either way, bundled textbooks are here to stay and students have to pay for them.

For some college students anxious about paying skyrocketing prices for their textbooks, technology will also prove to be their saving grace. Ex-Microsoft executive Bruce Jacobsen has launched a new electronic textbook publishing house called Kinetic Books. An Introduction to Physics textbook for example, looks a lot like a regular textbook except that the chapters are enhanced with animation and videos that can demonstrate physics concepts like velocity and acceleration.

Teachers are also using technology to create a more interactive learning environment. Michigan State University biology professor Diane Ebert-May no longer uses textbooks in her classroom. She assigns an assortment of reading materials and articles to aid classroom instruction.

“Biology changes so rapidly that most of the readings in my class are not much older than 2004,” said Ebert-May. She does, however, keep some publishers' complimentary copies of textbooks on hand in the classroom as reference materials.

CampusBooks.com is a leading supporter of technology that helps students save money on textbooks. We are proud to include e-book retailers in our list of bookstore partners that are displayed on price comparison pages. That way, when students are searching for and comparing prices on textbooks on our site, they will indeed get the lowest price possible—e-books included.

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Source:

Kingsbury, Alex. “Textbooks Enter the Digital Era.” U.S. News and World Report 08 OCT 2006 http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/articles/061008/16books.htm