A new report compiled by the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) claims that UC students pay too much for textbooks.

In a press conference held Thursday in front of the UCen, CalPIRG released a new report titled “Rip-off 101: How the Current Practices of the Publishing Industry Drive up the Cost of College Textbooks,” which says undergraduate UC students will spend an average of $898 per year on textbooks in 2003-04, or almost 20 percent of the cost of in-state undergraduate student fees. In contrast, a 1997 UC survey found that undergraduate students spent an average of $642 on textbooks in the 1996-97 academic year. Justin Pabian, co-chair of the UCSB chapter of CalPIRG, said the report is the most comprehensive of its kind, and that it detailed several ways in which textbook publishers unnecessarily drive up the cost of books.

“Students are paying too much for textbooks, and textbook publishers are using gimmicks to drive up their cost,” Pabian said.

While the average cost of books at all UC campuses with undergraduate programs is $898, the report said UCSB students will spend an average of $979.20 on books for the 2003-04 academic year – the highest of the seven UC campuses surveyed.

CalPIRG compiled the data for the report by surveying 521 UC students and 156 faculty members. The faculty members represented nine public universities, seven of them UC campuses. It also encompassed 100 professors that taught large classes at various UC campuses. The professors were asked various questions about changes made in new editions of textbooks and whether they considered such changes necessary.

Over half of the faculty surveyed, most of which teach large classes at UC schools, said new editions of textbooks are rarely or never justified. Instead of making students purchase new textbook editions, the report said 87 percent of the faculty surveyed said they would support a supplement of new information to accompany older books.

Pabian used Calculus: Early Transcendentals, published by a division of Thomson Learning, the third-most purchased book from the UCSB Bookstore last quarter, as an example. The report said a new edition of the book costs $130, while out-of-print editions can be bought for $20 to $90.

The only significant difference between the editions is the price, Pabian said, and the only changes that he could find were that some example problems used different numbers and a few of the chapters were re-ordered.

“Are these changes really necessary? We don’t think so,” Pabian said.

The report also said half of all new textbooks are sold exclusively in shrink-wrapped bundles with materials such as CD-ROMs and workbooks. Only one of the textbooks included in the survey could be bought without additional materials. That textbook’s bundled version cost $130, while the unbundled version cost only $60. CalPIRG’s survey said over 65 percent of faculty reported “rarely” or “never” using these bundled materials.

The report said the constant publishing of new editions of books is another reason for the rising textbook costs. Of the 33 books included in the study, the average time between editions was 3.8 years, and 28 out of 33 books were being re-published every 4 years or less.

“Once they stop producing a certain edition, all copies become obsolete,” Pabian said.

Pabian said the bookstores should sell bundled materials separately. Another possibility Pabian suggested was publishing electronic textbooks on the Internet.

“Online textbooks could eliminate major costs,” Pabian said. “Textbook publishers are ripping off students.”

The report also found a large disparity between textbook prices in the U.S. and in other countries. Thomson Learning’s calculus textbook costs an average of $122 to American students, while Canadian students pay $96 and British students pay only $59.

Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Logan Green said there needs to be cheaper textbooks amid rising tuition costs, saying tuition fees went up 35 percent last year and will rise another 20 percent this year. Green said students should make their voice heard to the UCSB faculty.

“I encourage everybody to talk to their professors,” he said. “Let them know that we’re aware of this policy.”

Mariesa Martin, an undeclared freshman who was at the press conference, said she agrees with Pabian’s statements.

“It doesn’t make sense to release new editions in a subject where new research isn’t being done. It’s ridiculous how much students are paying for textbooks,” Martin said. “I don’t think anybody uses the CDs bundled in.”