Textbook Prices may Decrease With Maryland bill

By Michelle Leibowitz, Bloc Reporter 

Alexis Talia never shows up to her classes dressed in casual clothes like other students – she arrives in black slacks and a Looney’s Pub work shirt.

Talia, 20, goes straight from her classes at the University of Maryland to her restaurant job where she waitresses until 1 a.m. She often brings her books so she can sneak in studying time when business is slow.

“I usually get up early in the morning and go to the library for three hours if I don’t have work before class,” she said. “It’s 100 percent because of my expenses.”

Talia said she has to pay for her own textbooks, an expense of over $1000 a year.

Sen. Joan Conway, D-Baltimore City, proposed a bill to the Maryland Senate on March 24. The house is currently reading the bill.

If passed, the bill will take effect June 1.

The bill would require audits from public universities regarding programs that educate professors on textbook selection. It would also require student access to unbundled textbooks.

The bill could potentially increase a professor’s awareness of new material added to different editions of a textbook. This would allow the professor to better judge whether the newest, most expensive edition is mandatory for students to purchase.

Kendra Lane, 21, is a head clerk at Bookholders, a distributor and buyer of used textbooks. Teachers provide information to the company about which books they plan to use for a class, she said.

“If a new edition of a book comes out, the older ones sell for less,” she said. “Usually, only the newest edition pops up when a student searches for a class.”

Because some publications constantly release new editions, Talia said she is often unable to sell her books back because they become outdated by the end of the semester.

“I spent $200 on a calculus book that we never used,” she said. “A new edition came out right before I could sell it back, so I only got $5 for it.”

Bundled textbooks are methods publishers use to increase the prices of packages, according to Student PIRGs. Students must buy a one-time-use online access code with their textbook in a bundle for certain classes, which makes it impossible to purchase an older edition.

Haley Pinheiro, 19, a Letters and Sciences student, spent over $100 on a brand new economics textbook she could have found for a fraction of the price if she didn’t have to purchase the bundle, she said.

“It’s a waste of money because you have to buy the code and can’t sell back the book,” she said. “You only have one option – you can’t buy a used book for a cheaper price.”

The bill follows provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which requires publishers to release pricing information to instructors so they can decide on which textbooks to use.

The act also encourages universities to provide information about cost-saving methods when purchasing textbooks.

Talia hopes the bill will have an immediate effect on her finances before she graduates in 2016.

“If this bill lowers my expenses, I’ll have more time to get involved on campus, study and do better in my classes,” she said. “I won’t have to work just to buy the textbook.”

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