A new semester brings with it the excitement of new classes, the over-repeated phrase of “how was your break” and, of course, the burden of buying hundreds of dollars of textbooks. While some might accept higher textbook prices as simply another facet of expanding college costs, various reports place blame on the publishing industry, which produces new editions more often than necessary.
While a congressionally sponsored Government Accounting Office probe into higher textbook prices proved to be a good start in mitigating the issue, it is imperative that students, faculty, and university administrators speak out against publishing practices that can prove financially disastrous for college students.
A State Public Interest Research Group report found that the average price of a U.S. textbook was 20 percent higher compared to its identical counterpart in the United Kingdom. In addition, the practice of “bundling” needless CDs or other extra materials with textbooks has made them unreturnable. Seventy-six percent of the faculty surveyed in the report found that new editions of textbooks were only justifiable about “half of the time” or less.
Students, in particular, have the ability to affect the retail prices of textbooks. By selling their old books through online retailers and purchasing used books from other students, they have the ability to undercut the retail market and obtain books for reasonable prices. Faculty should also refuse to continually use the newest editions of textbooks and demand more information from publishers about textbook costs so that they can make financially responsible decisions about which books to place on their required texts lists.
Voluntary or government-instituted reform of the publishing industry is a necessity. There is no reason that the publishing industry should continue to gouge college students already in debt from rising tuition.