Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Publishers Gouging Students

Over the last three years, I've written several posts about the textbook scam in this country.

On Friday, the New York Times addressed the issue again. An op-ed piece on Friday here said:

College students and their families are rightly outraged about the bankrupting costs of textbooks that hvae nearly tripled since the 1980s, mainly because of marginally useful CD-ROMs and other supplements. A bill pending in Congress would require publishers to sell "unbundled" versions of the books--minus the pricey add-ons. Even more important, it would require publishers to reveal book prices in marketing material so that professors could choose less-expensive titles.

In recent years, Americans became aware that they pay far more for drugs that pharmaceutical companies sell cheaply overseas.

However, as I said last August, few Americans realize that this same dynamic occurs in the sale of textbooks. On October 21, 2003, the New York Times reported that, "Just like prescription drugs, textbooks cost far less overseas than they do in the United States. The publishing industry defends its pricing policies, saying that foreign sales would be impossible if book prices were not pegged to local market conditions."

The same textbooks used in the U.S. sell for half price or less in England.

According to the US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), American students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks. Textbook prices have increased at four times the rate of inflation since 1994 and continue to rise.

I reported last August that, in May of last year, the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) suggested reforms that needed to stop the gouging of students by textbook publishers. You can read those recommendations here.

If you're interested in hearing the academic's point of view, see my post for August 27, 2007 here.

Publishers could not get away with these practices without the implicit consent of universities and professors.


Just_Me said...

When I was in high school I paid $400 per semester for my AP text books (history and math). In college I budgeted $1000 a semester for text books and lab books. The prices have always been outrageous. The price of education is outrageous. In an economy and marketplace where having a college degree is not optional it's criminal to set college tuitions so high that students either go into debt or cannot attend at all.

But you won't get the publishers, universities, or professors to change the prices. University presidents are some of the wealthiest people in the country. Professors supplement their incomes by writing text books and using them as required text for classes. And publishers will never turn down the offer of gaurenteed sales.

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