Bill ‘Urges’ Lowering Textbook Prices
Bill "Urges" Lowering Textbook Costs
September 23, 2004 3:15 PM
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that encourages universities, publishers, bookstores and faculty to work together to reduce the cost of textbooks for students, but vetoed a bill urging trustees to establish textbook rental programs on all CSU campuses.
AB 2477, signed by the governor on Sept. 16, encourages faculty, publishers and bookstores to share information about the prices of textbooks and publishing options available. With this information more accessible, faculty members are asked to consider the least costly practices in assigning textbooks, such as adopting cheaper editions that are educationally sound. The bill also suggests a review of the communication between professors and bookstores regarding the adoption and ordering of texts.
The bill urges instructors and publishers to only offer textbooks packaged with CD-ROMs or other extras if the bundling saves students money. “Unbundled” alternatives should be offered as well.
It asks publishers to list the prices of bundled, unbundled and supplemental materials, disclose how long an edition will be offered and provide a free copy for the library. Students and faculty should also be told how newer editions differ from older books.
On Sept. 16 Schwarzenegger also vetoed AB 2678, which created guidelines for a textbook rental program for CSU campuses. The governor said in his veto message that although he supports the idea of rental programs, he could not sign the bill.
“I am opposed to provisions in the bill [AB 2678] that would allow additional fees to be assessed to all students, even those not using the program, in order to keep a textbook rental service financially self sustaining,” said Schwarzenegger in his veto message.
Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) said in a written statement that the veto is a setback for textbook rental programs and college students.
“This veto increases the chances that textbook rental services at California colleges will be financially unsound and lacking in appropriate protections for students, faculty and administrators,” Koretz said.
Both bills come from a concern about the rising cost of textbooks.
Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) began work on AB 2477 after a report published in January by the California Public Interest Research Group found that college students spend an average of $898 per year on textbooks. The report stated that textbooks packaged with CD-ROMs and workbooks, frequent new editions and the lack of awareness by faculty of the cost of books they assign all contributed to the steep hike.
Liu’s bill on textbook pricing has no enforcement power. Instead it urges and encourages cooperation to find ways to save students money on textbooks. Some say it will make little difference.
“Unless ‘encourage’ implies something in the order of blackmail, the bill has little or no enforcement measures,” said Larry Klingenberg, an SF State engineering lecturer and member of both the Student Affairs Committee and Academic Senate. “The bottom line is, the legislature is requesting the publishers to make less money. This is America. It will never happen.”
Klingenberg tries to save his students money by placing copies of required textbooks in the library reserve room. He suggested SF State could begin a similar practice of buying about 30 copies of popular textbooks and placing them in the reserve room for students to use. If the technique became widespread, it could place publishers in a financial bind and force them to lower prices, Klingenberg said.
Psychology professor David Matsumoto said that textbook publishers are willing, when asked, to provide unbundled books or extra copies for teacher’s assistants and the library reserve room.
Association of American Publishers Executive Director for Higher Education Bruce Hildebrand said Liu’s bill will not change how publishers do business because they already work with campuses and instructors to give them “hundreds of thousands” of textbook options.
“If they request it, we’ll provide it,” Hildebrand said. “If they don’t, then we’re a highly competitive business and whoever comes out with the best product that the professors prefer, then that’s the product that will come into the classroom.”
Instructors are told to submit their lists of required materials one to two weeks before the buy-back program launches each semester. If a textbook has already been requested for the coming semester, the bookstore pays students 50 percent of a book’s value. If not, students receive the wholesale value—about $12 for a $100 book—or nothing.
“The faculty need to be aware of the options and the effect of their decisions or lack of decisions,” Strong said. “And look for cheaper options.”
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