College Textbooks: How are They Valued and Alternatives to Reduce the Cost Associated with Them By Zheni Goodrich
March 30, 2013
College textbooks are one of the largest expense and a great concern for students. The work presented here is going to answer the questions about why textbook is needed-how is it valued by students and professors, as provide a review of alternative options that students have in order to receive the most cost- efficient outcome when purchasing textbooks. In today’s economy many students are struggling when it comes to purchasing their textbooks. per year according to the National Association of College Stores (Hilton III & Wiley, 2010). Also students spend approximately about 5.5 billion each year and this on textbook purchases made only at the college bookstores. Unfortunately there is a great amount of students who are not able to purchase their textbooks due to the high prices. When required to purchase their textbook many students will have to pay $100 or more. The question is if those prices are fair and can they be justified? Publishers are using different strategies to artificially increase the price of the textbooks and reduce the used book sales. Some of the things that many of them practice are adding on materials to the textbooks, or bundle them with supplies that are not required or needed during the course. Issuing new books with little and insignificant changes to them is also very common practice for the publishers which results in increase of the price that students have to pay. Another reason that should not be overlooked is the change in the textbook market. During the last years many of the big publishers have bought the smaller ones which made the market of the textbooks more oligopolistic. This allows the publishers to dictate the prices as well as reducing the variety and choice for textbooks. The problem of the high priced textbooks is well understood by professors. During a recent interview at NDSU all of the professors that were interviewed clearly stated that they value textbooks highly and some cannot imagine that the students will be able to pass the class without it. Others stated that the textbook maximizes the learning experience of the students by providing a different approach of the course material which could be better understood. The content of the textbook is of greatest interest for college professors, which implies that if the book is expensive but from a big name publisher and with minimum errors, it will be considered as part of the course material. This is not to say that instructors do not care about the high cost students need to bear, but to maximize their learning experience. In order to balance the high cost of textbooks many professors would try to use the book as much as they can, consider custom textbooks, make the purchase of the textbooks optional instead of required, as well as announce the ISBN number as soon as possible in order to give students an adequate time to find the cheapest way too buy their books (S. Lim & Y. Hong, personal communication, November 18, 2012). One of the ideas for providing cheaper textbooks is the Open-Access textbooks, reviewed in detail in the academic paper “An Experiment in Open-Access Textbook Publishing: Changing the World One Textbook at a Time “by Meredith Morris-Babb and Susie Henderson. Currently thirty-nine states have passed legislative action that addresses the high cost of textbooks. The purpose is to provide the students with more tools with which to locate the cheapest text for their courses. For example requiring a confirmation by the instructor that all the assigned material will be used, as well as indicating the extent to which the new edition differs from the old one. In their work they also discuss different alternatives such as renting the books or e-book rentals where the students would have access to the course material for 180...
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