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Report: Affordable Higher Education
Exposing the Textbook Industry
- only 23% rated the site they use as ‘informative and easy to use’
- less than half said that the site typically lists the price of the book
- 61% rated the site they use as ‘informative and easy to use’
- 77% told us that the site usually lists the price of the book
- 77% told us that sales representatives rarely or never volunteer the price
- And even when professors directly asked for the price during a sales meeting, only 38% reported that the sales representative would always disclose the price.
- Only 50% of the professors who told us that they assigned a bundled book last semester said that they used the additional materials often. One-third said that they either could not assign the book they chose without the bundle or did not know if that option was available. This finding stands in contrast to the claims of many in the publishing industry that most of their books are available unbundled.
- Of the professors we surveyed, 71% said that new editions of textbooks in their field are justified only ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’, confirming earlier PIRG research. Since new editions are on average 12% more expensive than the previous edition, students are spending a lot of money for little educational gain. New editions also hamper the used book market, the most practical source for most students to access cheaper books.
- Textbooks should be produced and priced to be as inexpensive as possible without sacrificing educational value.
- New textbook editions should be produced only when educationally necessary; each book should be kept on the market as long as possible, with preference given to paper or online supplements over a whole new edition.
- Faculty should have the option to purchase textbooks unbundled; whenever a textbook is sold with additional materials, it also should be available without the extra materials.
- Publishers should provide faculty with more information on each book’s price, intended length of time on the market and substantive content differences from previous editions. Faculty want, and have the right to know, how their textbooks choices will affect their students. They should have easy access to information about all of the publisher’s products, low cost formats, options for bundling, and corresponding price information, voluntarily provided at the start of any sales transaction and on desk copies provided by the publisher.
- All textbooks should be available in a genuine low cost edition that contains comparable content in a low cost format. Information about these options should be easily available.
- Faculty should give preference to least cost options when choosing their books.
- There should be many avenues for students to access used books including rental programs, online bookswaps and bookstore buy-back.
Tools & Resources
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