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ASA backs lower text prices

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
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Faculty asked to report textbooks to bookstore earlier

The Arizona Students' Association is taking a closer look at new and used textbook editions to see how book prices can be lowered in relation to the rising costs of education.

ASA is supporting the effort to lower publishing textbook prices with the consideration that students pay an average of $900 per year on course materials, or 26 percent of the cost of tuition at the average four-year university, said Drew Record, ASA director.

The lack of used textbooks available every semester is a problem, and ASA argues that publishers constantly produce unnecessary new editions of textbooks every 3 1/2 years, whereas the model for publishing most textbooks is on a seven-year cycle, Record said.

This trend is happening even in fields like calculus and physics, which have materials that haven't changed significantly in years, said Record, a political science junior.

Once a new edition is put out, Record said faculty and the UofA Bookstore have no choice but to stop using the old edition and dish out more money for the newer edition.

The chance for the book prices to drop depends on more schools confronting these textbook companies, which could help lower textbook prices for the future, Record said.

The UA is one of 50 schools participating in a textbook campaign, which was started by students at the University of California, Irvine campus. Organizers are hoping to attract more than 200 college campuses by the end of this year, according to

These colleges can also join in letter-writing drives similar to what ASA started to stop "egregiously offending" publishing companies from unfairly hiking up their textbooks prices, Record said.

"Rather than boycotting the buying of books altogether, we're simply looking for alternatives," Record said.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona Sen. Patrick Cook said he ran on a platform to help alleviate the costs of textbooks last year after finding out he was going to receive less than $20 for selling back six textbooks.

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Cook said he is letting ASA tackle the issue because their role is that of lobbyists whereas the student government's role works internally with its own senate.

"I don't want to step on any toes because this is an important issue affecting everyone," said Cook, a pre-education sophomore.

Record said publishers should keep the cost of producing their books as low as possible without sacrificing educational content.

In order to do this, the publishers would need to keep textbook editions on the market until changes are necessary, giving preference to paper or online supplements over producing entirely new editions, and allowing professors to order unbundled textbooks, Record said.

Another concern is the bundling of textbooks, the inclusion of CD-ROMs and workbooks, which make textbooks 10 percent to 20 percent more expensive, Record said.

"An unbundled version should be available if students don't wish to purchase unnecessary course materials which go unused," said Record, adding that these supplements are justified for student use in language courses like Spanish and French to better compliment the understanding of the language.

Much of this can be corrected if faculty report what books they will continue or not continue to use to the UofA Bookstore at least two months before the semester ends, said Ann Wolnick, public relations coordinator for UofA Bookstores.

By giving the bookstore the information in advance, the possibility remains optimistic that more used materials can be operable for longer periods of time, and that students can sell back no longer needed books for a higher profit, Wolnick said.

"We don't want to impede the professors' choices of what textbooks to utilize in the classroom, but timelines need to be put in place for them to report what they will be using in a more efficient manner," said Wolnick, adding the bookstore makes only 5 cents on every textbook sold. "Textbooks are a heavy commodity, and we want students to get more in the end since they can often spend too much and get nothing in return."

To make sure students are getting the best price possible, the bookstore has a low-price guarantee, which means students can receive double the differences in cash if they find a lower-priced book at any other area bookstore, Wolnick said.

The bookstore also offers a book swap Web site that students can access and see how much a particular book will sell for and when to sell it back for more profit, Wolnick said.

The bookstore is unique in that sense, Record said.

"Our bookstore has a different mission with the intent of giving back to students where that money comes back to support ASUA and the (graduate council)," Record said.

Because the bookstore does not determine the price of books, it is up to the publishers to lower the costs. If the publishing companies stop and take a look at students' struggle with textbook affordability, Record said, students should remain optimistic in seeing some change in their purchasing of costly textbooks.

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