Students Seek Ways to Cut Textbook Costs

Additions Boost Price

The GAO does support publishers' arguments that the prices reflect "the increased investment publishers have made in new products to enhance instruction and learning." These advancements include technology applications such as online homework, quizzes, lesson plans and multimedia lectures.

But some students say the costs outweigh the benefits.

"The online material does go more in depth than the textbook," said UT freshman Allison Harris. "I just don't feel like I even use it enough for what I paid."

Across the board, textbook prices worry students. The demand for discounted textbooks is evident through the market of resellers and wholesalers.

Student organizations, online sites and electronic editions all attempt to get textbooks to the students at reduced rates.

The University Co-Op, for example, allows students to list their textbooks online to eliminate the middleman and sell directly to students for a higher return on textbook sell-backs.

At Towson University in Maryland, the student government set up a Web site where students can sell books to one another. And that state's Board of Regents is looking into ways to reduce or limit cost increases.

And at the University of Alabama, the student government has asked the faculty senate to vote to keep costs down through careful selection of textbooks.

Online Editions Grow

Online textbook editions have recently become more prevalent nationally. According to the GAO study, student response to this method has been mixed. Electronic textbook editions cannot be resold, and many students say they get tired of reading computer screens.

On the other hand, these versions retail for a lower price than the hard copies and offer the option of printing out pages. UT is set to have about 1,000 students participate in an electronic textbook trial next academic year.

Students taking chemistry, biochemistry, marketing, and accounting classes could be eligible for the trial, but specific courses are still being decided.

Online Web sites for new, used and international textbooks are very popular among college students. These sites allow students to search and compare prices from different sellers, and often cost no more than a few dollars for shipping charges.

Turning to Amazon

"I use for most of my textbook purchases," said Michelle Moreno, a senior at UT. "Delivery only takes about a week, and there is a 30-day return policy," she said. "I spend $300 tops on books each semester."

Beginning in 2010, new federal laws will be in place in an effort to help make textbook prices clear and eliminate surprises, which is often called "sticker shock." The law is designed to ensure that colleges and faculty members have all the textbook pricing information when making their purchase assessments every year.

The law will also require marketers to post textbook prices of new editions before a student opts to take the class. This will equip students with advance information to make it easier to plan for expenses every academic year.

"I paid about $650 for books this semester," said Reza Farahani, an accounting major at Concordia University in Austin. "It will probably be that much next semester, too, and knowing how much a textbook is going to be in advance won't really help me. You've still got to pay the ridiculous amount."

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