Lane Community College's Student Newspaper

OSPIRG starts campaign to reduce textbook costs

Posted on February 6, 2014 | in News | by

OSPIRG began its campaign to reduce the cost of textbooks, #textbookbroke, with a kickoff event outside of the Center Building Jan. 27.

OSPIRG organizer Adam Parker, Board of Education member Tony McCown, and student government president Paul Zito all spoke about the price of textbooks at the event.

More than 20 similar groups across the country started campaigns the same day.

Parker presented the results of a survey of more than 2,000 students at more than 150 campuses across 33 states in which students were asked about the rising cost of textbooks.

“Our report has three take-aways. We have found that textbook costs are undermining
students’ education. The prices are so high that many students skip even buying a textbook,” Parker said. “It is not unusual for students to pay $200 per textbook, per class.”

But several textbooks required by Lane instructors fall well below that price. Information provided by the Titan Store indicates that seven Lane instructors have authored 10 books they require their students to buy. Nine of these books cost less than $45.

A little more than 100 of the respondents were Oregon students, and an average of 13 students per campus nationwide responded to the survey.

According to the survey, 64 percent of students claimed they would forgo buying a textbook, 94 percent of them believed it would hurt their grades and 48 percent said textbook prices affected how many and what classes they would take.

Titan Store Director of Retail Services Tony Sanjume said the price of textbooks is dictated by the size of the market. While lower-cost popular novels and non-fiction appeal to millions, college textbooks are more likely purchased by “10,000 or 20,000 people,” he said.

Parker said he wants to motivate more teachers to use free online open-source textbooks, larger and better-publicized rental programs, and for educators to use textbook editions for five years.

“We must do what it takes to see the wider use of open-education sources,” McCown said.

Sanjume said programs like that have actually backfired. The publishers’ market share has continued to diminish because of rental programs and the re-sale of used textbooks, he said.

“The publishers do have their fixed costs and they are public companies — public, for-profit companies,” Sanjume said. “By year two or even year three, they are picking up very small amounts of that book. So where they were selling 10,000 that first semester it was available, they are selling 100 or so (later).”

McCown said he wasn’t at the event in his capacity as a Board of Education member, but as a Lane alumnus.

“We know that that textbooks can nearly be a third of a community college student’s cost,” he said, costs that are compounded by the rising costs of tuition.

“It is no longer enough to tell our students they must do more with less,” McCown said.

Zito agreed that there is problem with textbook prices, but presented a different solution: purchasing textbooks from Europe.

According to Zito’s research, European printing companies produce comparable textbooks — sometimes, at half the price.

“Students would be able to get their books for cheaper (and) the companies selling them out of our institutions would be able to make their profit margins the same,” Zito said.

Titan Store Procurement Specialist Barbara Bailey said there were problems with this solution.

“It can take months to get books here from overseas. We do have a couple of books we buy … that come from Eng- land, and it can take months if they don’t have an American distributor,” Bailey said.

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