New Editions of Textbooks Wreaking Havoc for Students

Boston Metro, USA
January 30 - February 01, 2004

by Elizabeth Malloy


While tutoring a fellow student, Susan Smith realized that the price of her logic textbook was illogical.

Smith, a senior at the University of Massachusetts - Boston, took a logic class in the fall semester, but when she tried to sell her book back, she was told that the class was switching to a new edition, and that the bookstore would not buy back the text.

Thje next spring, Smith tutired students in the same class, she using her 8th text, they using the new 9th edition. Smith found that the text were nearly identical, except that the 9th edition contained more errors, and cost twice as much as a used 8th edition would have.

According to a new study by the Massachusetts Student Interest Group (MASSSPIRG), publishing companies create new editions of textbooks every three-and-one-half years, often containing few variances from older editions, resulting in inflated prices. A used textbook generally costs about one-half the price of a new book, and 76 percent of professors said the new editions are generally unnecessary.

"We're looking at somewhere around a 50 to 40 percent markup", MASSPRIRG spokesperson Eric Bourassa said of the price.

Publishing companies increase prices by "bundling" half of all textbooks, shrink-wrapping them with workbooks and CD-ROMS, which 65 percent of faculties said they don't use, the study said.

The study reports that each student will spend an average of $898 on textbooks in the 2003-2004 school year. Smith, an English major and pre-law student, said she spent $1000 on texbooks in the past year.

"I think we need to get more student-run book swaps or student-run used book stores to facilitate making textbooks a little more affordabel", Smith said

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