Sep 132007
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Student government representatives stood for two hours in the Engineering plaza Thursday to gather support for legislation to lower the skyrocketing cost of textbooks.

As a part of a statewide initiative among accredited four-year institutions and the Associated Students of Colorado (ASC), the Associated Students of CSU is lobbying to do away with loopholes in state law that allow publishers to charge more for books.

The letters will be sent to Sen. Steve Johnson (D-Fort Collins), organizers said.

The current textbook market in Colorado is shady, said an ASC representative. Publishers often hold textbook prices from professors, so they don’t know how much their students will be paying when they order curriculum.

“It’s a broken market,” said Blake Gibson, chairman of CSU’s chapter of ASC. “The consumers don’t have the normal sway.”

There are several other factors that keep textbook prices high.

One is “bundling,” a term that refers to books that are packaged with CDs and other learning supplements. On average, bundling makes the average textbook 20 percent more expensive, said Dan Palmer, textbook efforts coordinator for ASCSU.

One initiative of the program is to require that learning supplements are sold seperately.

Another problem is that successive book editions are published every one to three years. Gibson said that with some subjects this is unnecessary. It would be much more efficient to print new editions every seven years.

“When was the last time calculus changed?” Gibson said.

Also, no legislation exists preventing publishers from presenting gifts to book stores, Palmer said.

“It is very hard to prove that this goes on, but it is possible,” said Gibson.

The goal of the letter writing campaign is to put pressure on lawmakers to do away with these problems through legislation.

“We’re not after the publishers,” Gibson said. “We just want fairness in the marketplace.”

Another idea that has already been implemented by other states is a rental system. In California, students can rent textbooks for $130 to $210 per semester. Average cost of purchase is about $450, according The California Aggie, a student-run newspaper at University of California at Davis.

But a rental system would be very expensive to start on a statewide basis.

“The problem is that it would cost about $20 million to implement,” Gibson said. “It would have to be state funded.”

Some CSU students love the idea of cheaper textbooks.

“A lot of people go online to get the better deal, and the school might make more money if they offer better competition,” said Craig LaPorte, a senior computer science major.

“It’s great because it is very bipartisan,” Gibson said. “Everyone wants cheaper textbooks”

Students in other states are pushing to lower textbook costs as well. A collaborative online campaign among Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maryland and others called presents information to U.S. college students on how to help make textbooks more affordable.

Staff writer Aaron Hedge can be reached at

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