In response to your opinion editorial on Sept. 18, “Textbook cost problems lie close to home” by Seth Anthony, we just wanted to clear up a few misunderstandings.
First, we’d like to commend Mr. Anthony on his opinions, as we agree with many of them. In fact, for the last decade, ASCSU has gone on a Walk for Cheaper Textbooks campaign each year to remind faculty to turn their book orders in on time. This will be happening again in early October, when the bookstore can optimize their purchase of used books.
This year, we are also including information about textbooks that are offered free to students online, such as Freeload Press. The submission deadline is Oct. 15. Mr. Anthony was absolutely correct that having textbook orders submitted on time saves students money.
Despite these savings, textbooks are still expensive.
The persistent increase in textbook costs each year, more than double inflation according to a GAO study, is due to the odd market incentives and lack of competition between publishers. The ultimate consumers (the students) don’t choose the book, the faculty do.
Because the first concern of faculty is academic content, as it should be, publishers have little pressure to disclose pricing information.
When surveyed, faculty have expressed a strong desire to save students money. When faculty are given pricing information, as is already required in several states, some element of price competition might emerge.
Some of the most feasible solutions include:
/ Require publishers to indicate the planned length of each edition. This would make it far easier for bookstores to keep used books in the market and might give faculty an incentive to choose books with a five year (rather than one or two year) planned circulation.
/ Most faculty do not require use of many of the bundled materials. Although some students may benefit from their use, bundles add up to 20% to the cost of textbooks. Most courses do not use bundled materials. We want students to have the ability to buy bundled items separately.
/ At this time we are not focusing any efforts on establishing a textbook rental program. Such a program can save students money. High overhead costs of around $20 million and the need for administrative coordination make this option infeasible at this time.
/ There are emerging alternatives to traditional textbooks, such as downloadable textbooks. We are looking at ways to encourage the use of open education resources, which in the long run will create true competition in the textbooks market.
All these efforts have been implemented in other states.
It is important to view this as a combined solution; there is no magic bullet for cheaper textbooks. These efforts have saved students up to 30% of textbook costs in other states.
By implementing the most appropriate and feasible of these solutions, we can make textbooks more affordable for everyone.
Katie Gleeson, President, Associated Students of Colorado State University
Dan Palmer, Director of Academics, Associated Students of Colorado State University
Blake Gibson, Chairman, Associated Students of Colorado. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.