After the state legislature passed a CSU student-drafted bill last year to increase transparency in the textbook industry, students and faculty leaders are saying further measures must be taken to quell the sharply increasing price tag for class materials.
Dan Palmer, a CSU alumnus who was active in pushing the measure at the state Capitol, said that, although textbook publishers are now held to a higher level of accountability, students and teachers now a have a responsibility to educate themselves on textbook prices and find competitive resources.
“The bill, I think, helps, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Palmer, who was the director of education for student government when the bill was signed.
Palmer said four publishing firms control 80 percent of the textbook market. CSU’s bookstore is one of the cheaper places to buy books directly shipped from those firms.
The bill, the College Textbook Affordability Act, requires textbook publishers to:
Disclose prices up front to teachers
Disclose differences between editions, and
Offer “unbundled” editions, which include sometimes ancillary material that is un-needed by the teacher
But Palmer says more must be done.
He said to further the bill’s work, “one of the best things [to do] is campaign,” in order to obtain additional options such as open textbooks, free online texts, adopted by more faculty members. Right now only certain texts are available for free online, a majority of them being entry-level materials.
According to a 2007 report from maketextbooksaffordable.org, a conglomeration of student governments from across the United States to keep textbooks affordable, the average U.S. student currently spends $900 a year on textbooks.
The price of textbooks has increased by nearly four times the rate of inflation over the past two decades.
In response to the skyrocketing price, several CSU students have spent time in Denver over the last couple of years, working with state legislators to slow that trend. The effort resulted in the passage of the bill last year. The measure was written by Blake Gibson, a veterinary science major, and was sponsored by several local politicians.
Katherine Browne, an anthropology professor who stresses the importance of finding alternative resources for classroom materials, said there are avenues to lighten the burden on students’ wallets when it comes to buying books, specifically online options.
“Using online materials is a lot cheaper,” she said, adding that Internet texts are also beneficial for the teacher. “Also, it gives me control over the quality of the material. Some books have chapters I don’t necessarily want and that my students don’t need. Online materials let me select the material for the class.”
Many booksellers have also started implementing a new online system that lets students rent books, including the local Big Dog Textbooks, located on Shields Street just west of campus.
Utilizing these programs, students pay a fee for separate chapters or the entire textbook, and the textbook provider sends the work to the student for a certain number of days. Once the time is up, students have the option of paying full price and keeping the book or returning it.
Some students say the alternative measures work well.
“I’ve used Check.com,” said Anthony Sagan, a junior business major. “It was definitely a good 30 to 50 dollars cheaper [than buying textbooks] for all the books I checked out.”
But Erika Goldbrandsen, a sophomore biology major, said the CSU Bookstore is a sufficient resource that can save students money on textbooks.
“I always buy my books from CSU’s bookstore. Buying used books from them is the best way to save money.”
Staff writer Lexie Wissler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For local bookstores and online textbook deals check out these places:
Lory Student Center
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Rams Book Store
130 West Laurel St.
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Big Dog Textbooks
829 S. Shields St
Fort Collins, CO 80521
Barnes and Noble (recommended by certain CSU professors)
4045 S. College
Fort Collins, CO 80525