Editorial | Textbook policies aim to help, though not strictly enforced
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 01:09
Textbooks — never on time, priced too high and sometimes even useless to the course. With about 57 percent of students still purchasing their required course materials either from their campus college store or through the bookstore’s website, according to a 2012 Student Watch Report, college bookstores should remain as one of the most reliable places for students to buy their books and materials. Students in Ohio spend an average of $665 annually on course materials according to a national study by OnCampus Research.
For Miami students, that number is almost laughable. When those numbers on the cash register come up and you soon realize at least $600 of your summer money is going towards chemistry and English books in one semester, its quite daunting to think about all the other things you could do with that cash. According to an August article in the Dayton Daily News featuring Miami’s director of bookstores, Sarah Thacker, students spend around $700 a semester buying and renting textbooks.
The point is that some students spend about $1,400 a year on textbooks at Miami. So getting the right course materials for the right class, getting them on time and, most importantly, having ebook and rental options should always be available because of how much money students spend, right?
The Federal Textbook Price Disclosure Law, or the Higher Education Opportunity Act, was first put in place in 2008 in order to make sure customers had options to buy materials bundled or sold separately, that students would not be charged for unnecessary materials, professors would be required to disclose what materials would be needed for class upon registration time and that publishers had an obligation to disclose prices among different formats of text. The law should be enhanciung and simplifying students’ textbook-purchasing experiences and protecting them from limited selection and overpriced materials, but has it really since it was put in place?
The law officially went into full-effect for the 2011-2012 school year, but according to Thacker, even though the bookstores have tried to comply with this new law, publishers are not holding up their end of the bargain. Lack of price disclosures and the fact that half of textbooks are still being sold in bundled packages are some of the main issues according to Thacker.
The Miami Student editorial board appreciates the efforts of bookstores trying to provide better options for students when it comes to pricing and options for materials, but the board remains concerned with how some publishers are not complying with the new law and why nothing is being done to enforce these policies put in place by the textbook law.
One of the main issues remaining is students not being able to sell back their books to the bookstore that requires an access code or CD, even if they didn’t use it.
“I had an access code for my statistics course along with my book. We had to have it, and the book was pointless. Then the bookstore wouldn’t take it back because of the access code. They don’t tell you that when you first buy it,” sophomore psychology major Erin Davis said.
Thacker acknowledged the frustration of students, but the bookstore must buy the bundled packages if a professor requires it, and according to her, most publishers make it impossible for the bookstore to buy materials separately.
“As far as enforcing issues with publishers, that is out of our hands, and the federal government has to do that,” she said.
As the editorial board is fully comprised of Miami students, we understand the frustration with pricing, which has many of us utilizing Chegg or other rental websites for books as many students now do, including Davis.
“I never buy my textbooks through Miami. I probably save at least $100,” Davis said.
Publishers need to be held accountable — bookstores like Miami’s can only do so much. According to a survey by Student PIRGs, 77 percent of publishers rarely or never report the price of a book during sales transactions and only 23 percent of publishers’ websites were rated as informative and easy to use.
The bigger question is, what is the point of having a textbook law if there is no one enforcing it? Why are some publishers getting away with this?
“I don’t feel like the law has really done anything except with students being able to find out what books they need earlier,” Thacker said .