It happens year after year, semester after semester. The time for us college students to shell out loads of money on 10 various textbooks for our 5 classes. The price of textbooks seems to be following the path of our already skyrocketing student loan debt. The price of textbooks is not only and economical and political issue, but an ethical one as well. How can colleges and universities require students to buy textbooks that they can’t afford? And what exactly are these textbook companies and publishers doing to ensure that their textbooks stay in demand and their prices stay so high?
After some investigating, I discovered some of the tactics and schemes (that I believe to be unethical) the companies use to continue to profit off of us broke college kids.
In an article exploring the dirty tricks of the trade, David Miller, founder of SlugBooks, discusses two examples. One tactic textbook companies use is creating “custom edition” textbooks. These editions are only slightly different than the generic edition and offered at larger universities. By requiring students to buy these “custom” textbooks, Universities and publishers are able to prevent the sale and trade of used textbooks. The other tactic that Miller mentions is the newer technology of online textbook components. These online platforms are mostly used for homework submission. Miller explains the reasoning behind this practice, “If you want to buy the software license without the book, it’s $80, and if you buy it with the book, it’s $100. So they’re basically producing the software for nothing, then using it to require students to buy a brand new book.”
I have personally experienced the agony of paying for one of these online textbook components. For my Spanish class, the textbook and MySpanishLab online software were both required. When my friend told me she had taken the same Spanish course and would let me use her textbook, I thought “lucky me!”
Then on the first day of class I realized I wasn’t so fortunate…
$80 later, I felt as if I hadn’t saved anything!
I’m sure you can understand and share my frustration with throwing out extra money for unnecessary textbooks. I do not think it is ethical for these companies to continue to engage in these unfair practices. As students, our voices need to be heard. Our opinions matter! If people continue to expose these tricks, maybe we will see some lower prices in the near future!