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Causes and Solutions to teh High Cost of College Textbooks (standard:Editorials, 1690 words)
Author: Victor D. LopezAdded: Jun 21 2013Views/Reads: 1656/910Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
This brief article deals with some of the root causes that have resulted in college textbooks that can be higher than $200. Despite severe shake-ups in the industry and attrition over the past two decades, the cost of college textbooks keeps increasing an

In a World Where Anyone Can Publish a Book Inexpensively, Why Does Your
College Textbook Still Cost $200? 

Despite legislation at the federal level and in a growing number of
states aimed at lowering the high cost of college textbooks, costs 
remain largely unaffected and students are still paying about $1,000 
per year on average for their textbooks. Before continuing, I need to 
note that the reasons for the high cost of textbooks are numerous and 
fixing the problem is complicated for reasons that I will not delve 
into here. (For a thorough discussion of the issue, see my article 
“Legislating Relief for the High Cost of College Textbooks: a Brief 
Analysis of the Current Law and its Implication for Students, Faculty 
and the Publishing Industry” Journal of Legal Studies in Business, Vol. 
15 (2009)). Rather, I will concentrate on what I consider to be the 
main factor: the marketing-driven push-model  of textbook distribution 
that dominates the industry today. 

As the author of five law-related college textbooks who has been an
academic for almost all of his professional career, this is an industry 
I have grown to know well. Common misconceptions to the contrary 
notwithstanding, neither publishers nor textbook authors are 
profiteering at the expense of students as most of the revenue from 
textbooks goes to expenses for their creation and distribution 
(including retailers' profits). The care and feeding of the masses of 
marketing reps required to push textbooks on faculty through constant 
contact that includes periodic office visits to college faculty to keep 
them abreast of new features, upcoming revisions, and new textbooks in 
their fields of interest is massively expensive. (And frankly more than 
a little annoying to those of us who do not welcome those frequent, 
uninvited intrusions into our office hours.) 

The textbook marketing model is very similar to the way life insurance
is marketed--especially the really profitable type--whole life and 
universal life--where one-on-one, in-person marketing is the rule. 
(Although I sincerely doubt the sales reps rake in the 55% commissions 
on first-year premiums that insurance salespeople have traditionally 
made on the sale of whole-life life insurance from the major 

Sales reps have become incredibly adept at the care and feeding of the
university faculty that they depend upon to adopt their books. As a 
faculty member, you need only ask and you shall receive large numbers 
of expensive textbooks for review and as desk copies once a title is 
adopted. This is just part of the cost of doing business. Some 
publishers go out of their way to involve faculty members at schools 
with large prospective or current adoptions in ongoing reviews of their 
current or upcoming titles for which faculty receive normally a small 
honorarium of $100 or so. Others are more aggressive and sponsor 
junkets to popular destinations like Las Vegas for "training sessions" 
on the use of their products to faculty members at institutions with 
large textbook adoptions. This particular practice was targeted by 
recent federal legislation as well as legislation in some states aimed 
at reducing the cost of textbooks, but it has not yet been completely 
eradicated. And faculty who are busy with their class preparation 
duties, their research agendas and their university and departmental 
service loads are usually only too happy to look only at the titles 
suggested/pushed by the sales representatives of the handful remaining 
major textbook publishers. 

The result is that most college faculty--including those who are truly
interested in lowering the burden of the high cost of textbooks for 
their students--most often find themselves choosing among very 
expensive textbooks from at most two or three publishers happily 
provided for them by sales representatives who highlight the competing 
features and demonstrate the latest and greatest software, web-based 
features and video ancillaries intended to entice faculty to adopt 
their titles--and sometimes specifically intended to lock them in to 
the titles by offering proprietary software for homework management, 
grade keeping, and online classroom supplementation that is available 
only as long as the faculty member keeps adopting the publisher's 
titles. Other viable options exist, but the vast  majority of faculty 
are not aware of them as there are no armies of solicitous salespeople 
pushing these on them on a constant basis. 

Lest I be misunderstood, I genuinely like the publishers'

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