Textbook affordability

By Stacy S. Skelly

Your recent editorial, “Textbook bill should be required reading” (March 28), did not accurately reflect the textbook market. For the average four-year student, textbooks represent less then 5 percent of the overall cost of higher education, and students spent about $650 on textbooks in 2007, according to independent research service Student Monitor.

Still, publishers understand student concerns about college costs and have responded by offering more textbook and course material options then ever before, including lower-cost options such as abbreviated editions, no-frills editions, custom books and e-books. Students also have access to CourseSmartT, an online digital marketplace that offers several thousand e-textbooks and course materials in a common format at one Web site. Six leading higher education publishers collaborated to make this site a reality.

Additionally, it is the faculty – not publishers – who determine when new course materials are warranted and whether to “bundle” a textbook. Faculty members choose supplemental materials they feel will best improve student success and learning. Publishers deliver these materials – which can also be selected a la carte – as ordered. As for new editions, 80 percent of college instructors say it is important that textbooks used in their courses be as current as possible.

We need to ensure that any legislation regarding textbooks contains commonsense measures aimed at increasing transparency and holding down prices while at the same time does not inadvertently increase costs for students and restrict choice for faculty.