Many companies have long made the commitment to be ethically responsible to their consumers, which in part explains their financial success. Some companies, like Aveda, and CampusBooks.com, are taking it one step further by pledging to be responsible to the environment as well as society by educating consumers and aiding them in making socially- and environmentally- responsible purchases. As part of its 2007 holiday collection, Aveda is introducing makeup gift sets in boxes wrapped in lokta paper. This type of paper is specially crafted for Aveda through its partnership with Nepalese women whose communities and families benefit from the income generated from the sustainable business.

Like Aveda, CampusBooks.com believes in holding ourselves responsible to more than just our direct customers.  we are responsible for trying to better their communities too. CampusBooks.com has just teamed up with Better World Books to aid in promoting literacy worldwide through the use of used books and textbooks. Now, when a seller looks up their book on CampusBooks.com and sees an unsatisfactory buyback price for his/her used textbook, he/she can donate it to Better World Books, which will either give the book directly to the communities that need it, or sell it to fund literacy programs and initiatives locally, nationally and worldwide. Donating books benefits communities in two ways: 1) books are given directly to communities who need them, and 2) unwanted books are recycled instead of being tossed away and ending up in a landfill. The only conditions for books to be accepted for donation are that they are in good enough shape to be used again and that they have a publishing date after 2001. CampusBooks.com and Better World Books will even pay for users to ship their books for donation, so donors don’t have to pay any money out-of-pocket! For more information on how to donate, please go to http://www.campusbooks.com/bookdonation.php.

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

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


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

Government Advisory Committee Reports on Making Textbooks More Affordable

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) submitted a report to Congress on Friday that discussed their findings about the current state of textbook affordability. The one-year study was commissioned at the request of Congressmen Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and David Wu (D-OR) in June 2006 to investigate ways to make textbooks more affordable for students. In the letter requesting the study, the Advisory Committee was asked to:

· Investigate further the problem of rising textbook prices.

· Determine the impact of rising textbook prices on students’ postsecondary education.

· Make recommendations to Congress, the Secretary, and other stakeholders on what can be done to make textbooks more affordable.[1]

The Advisory Committee determined that “all stakeholders—students, faculty, colleges, bookstores, and publishers as well—are victims of the failure of this market”[2]

The Committee found that all stakeholders had valid interests that needed to be protected when making textbooks affordable and so there is no reason to blame any one stakeholder. Instead, the main reason that textbooks are not affordable is “the underlying structural imperfection in the market for textbooks and learning materials”[3]—that is, the market is driven by supply instead of by demand. Faculty select the textbooks, the bookstores order them and students must pay for them. The end result is a market that is not driven by consumer demands, which ultimately results in a disregard for product price.

In keeping with its focus on solutions instead of blame, the ACSFA identified short-term solutions and a long-term solution to the textbook affordability problem. The eight short-term solutions are:

1. Strengthen the used textbook market

2. Utilize faculty textbook selection guidelines

3. Provide key information to students and parents

4. Increase library resources

5. Adopt alternatives that lower price

6. Implement a textbook rental program

7. Improve related financial aid policies

8. Utilize 21st century technology

 

The long-term solution proposed by the Advisory Committee is a national digital marketplace. In theory, the infrastructure of the marketplace would consist of a transaction and rights clearinghouse, numerous marketplace Web applications, and hosted infrastructure resources.[4] The California State University is currently doing innovative work in the area of building such a digital marketplace. The initiative began in 2003 as way to “increase student and faculty success by reducing expenses for educational content, hardware, and software.”[5]

The CSU Marketplace plans to serve the technological needs of students, faculty, and staff with both no-cost and fee-based educational content. The Advisory Committee hopes that “when fully developed, CSU’s statewide solution can be the first step toward a national digital marketplace for voluntary use by other states, colleges, faculty, and students.”[6]

CampusBooks.com is following these developments very closely and we’ve made digital textbooks available on our site. The future of the textbook market is fast heading in the direction of electronic textbooks, but in the meantime, CampusBooks.com is helping students save money on books by providing a robust marketplace to buy and sell textbooks quickly and inexpensively.

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References:

[1] Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, “Textbook Study Fact Sheet.” 2007. http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/acsfa/txtbkfactsht.pdf

[2-6] Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance , “Turn the Page: Making College Textbooks More Affordable, MAY 2007.” Textbook Cost Study. May 2007. http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/acsfa/turnthepage.pdf

Textbook prices just keep going up, as I’m sure you’re all painfully aware! We know textbook prices are not exactly a riveting topic, but having all been college students, we know that although textbook prices are not exciting, saving money is ! We believe that it is important to keep up on the happenings of the textbook publishing world so that we can pass that knowledge on to the people who need it most: you. So check back often because we will be updating this blog at least once a week with textbook news that will put money in your pocket. For our more personal and revealing blog, check out our Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/campusbooks.

Who are we?
We are an online shopping comparison Web site for books. This includes textbooks, trade books, rare books, general interest books, etc. Any book that you’re looking for, from Bridget Jones’s Diary to Introduction to Psychology , we’ve got it. The main purpose of our site is to allow users to search over 40 different online bookstores at the same time, just by entering the title or ISBN of the book. You can search for your book and we will find the best price for that book. Easy huh? To see a sample of what it would look like, click on any of the previously mentioned titles. You can also visit our Web site for more information about us: http://www.campusbooks.com

Why are we blogging?
Textbook prices just keep going up, as I’m sure you’re all painfully aware! We know textbook prices are not exactly a riveting topic, but having all been college students, we know that although textbook prices are not exciting, saving money is. We believe that it is important to keep up on the happenings of the textbook publishing world so that we can pass that knowledge on to our consumers. So check back often because we will be updating this blog at least once a week with textbook news that will put money in your pocket. For our more personal and revealing blog, check out our Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/campusbooks and add us!

Please note: CampusBooks.com is not a formal news service and does not claim to be. We are simply trying to bring attention to issues that affect college students in order to help you make the most informed choices possible. Any stories we choose to bring up for discussion in the blog do not reflect our political affiliations or bias for any party. Republican, Democrat, Independent or unaffiliated, it doesn’t matter to us. Our decision regarding what stories to discuss depend on what we think will most affect you.