Online group aims to curb high prices of textbooks

Kristyn Soltis

On top of the cost of college tuition stressing students, college textbook publishers have only added to it with the cost of textbooks.

That’s why participants from over 100 colleges have joined an Internet campaign looking to force textbook publishers to lower their prices by making affordable online textbooks available to universities nationwide. is a coalition of student public interest research groups and student government associations from 14 states seeking to make college costs a little lighter on students’ wallets.

“I remember the pain of ‘sticker shock’ when I went to purchase my textbooks, and I would like to find a way to alleviate some of that,” said Leah Meek, lecturer in Biology at Kent State Salem campus.

Meek was intrigued by the affordable textbook campaign and chose to sign the petition.

The campaign, which began at the University of California, Irvine, focuses on market-based approaches to essentially pressure textbook publishers, such as Thompson Learning, Inc., to lower their prices.

According to the Ohio Student Public Interest Research Group Web site, students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks, which is 20 percent of tuition at an average university and half of tuition at a community college.

One strategy the coalition employs to create competition in the textbook market is to create alternatives to traditional textbooks. Online texts offer students and teachers the opportunity to view a high-quality textbook online for free or exceptionally low prices with the ability to download the material.

Faculty members of universities across the country have also begun to show they understand students’ financial burden from textbooks. To date, 537 faculty members from various universities have joined the campaign by signing a letter addressed to the CEO of Thompson Learning, Inc. requesting a more transparent and fair pricing scheme.

“I, too, think textbooks are outrageously priced for students,” Meek said. “(Students) are captive consumers since they have no choice but to get what the professor assigns.”

Faculty members have also signed the online open textbook petition at

“I think cheaper online textbooks are a great idea,” said Megan Tutino, a junior Fashion Merchandising major. “I spent $400 on books yesterday. A brand new book should not cost $160, especially when the bookstores will buy it back for $40 just to re-sell it again for $90 to another student next semester.”

The government has made progress to resolve the issue. Congress passed legislation to lower the cost of textbooks, July 31, 2008. The Higher Education Opportunity Act encourages college faculty and publishers to be mindful of prices.

It orders publishers to tell professors textbook prices and provide a description of any substantial changes made since previous conditions. Publishers must also offer unbundled textbooks, meaning no extra unnecessary workbooks or CD-ROMs, which would lower costs for students at the bookstore.

Contact student finance reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected].