In the its battle against high textbook prices, CalPIRG has sent a “call to action” petition letter to textbook publisher Thomson Learning. The letter includes requests from students and faculty to help alleviate the problem.
CalPIRG held a press conference yesterday at 10 a.m. in front of the UCen to announce they had sent the petition and to inform students of the problem of unfair textbook prices. The letter, signed by over 500 mathematics faculty from over 100 universities, was sent to the publisher on April 6.
UCSB Associate Professor of Mathematics John Doner was among the signers of the petition.
“Textbook prices have just spun out of control. There are many reasons for the high prices ( publishers have gotten carried away with producing a really elegant book. But it’s overkill. We don’t need all of it,” Doner said.
The letter is concerned primarily with the introductory calculus textbook, Calculus: Early Transcendentals, Edition Five. In order to keep prices low, the letter asks that Thomson Learning only publish new editions of textbooks when there is significant new content to include, charge American students the same prices as students abroad, inform faculty of product prices and provide an online version of the book.
“Thomson Learning has dismissed student concerns [about textbook prices]. If they refuse to listen to students, maybe they’ll listen to faculty,” said Justin Pabian, co-chair of the UCSB CalPIRG chapter.
CalPIRG has been writing letters to Thomson Learning since the completion of its January report entitled, “Ripoff 101: How the Current Practices of the Publishing Industry Drive up the Cost of College Textbooks.” The letter asserts that the fifth edition of the calculus book is not significantly different from the fourth edition, which was only in print for three years. The report states that 76 percent of faculty surveyed agree that new editions of textbooks are justified half the time or less.
CalPIRG’s requests have not produced results, Pabian said.
“It’s time for Thomson Learning to get their head out of the sand and realize that a problem exists, or at least engage in thoughtful dialogue [with students],” Pabian said.
“CalPIRG needs to be willing to work with us and hear our side,” Thomson Learning spokeswoman Judy Platt told the Nexus in February. “We believe people producing textbooks are part of the solution and not the problem.”
Doner said faculty members feel pressured to use the newest versions of textbooks in their classes because old editions are discontinued and become hard to find once the new edition comes out.
“It’s never been an option to use old editions of textbooks for another couple of years. I wouldn’t want to use the first edition of the textbook, but the fourth edition seems just as good as the fifth. It’s definitely something [for faculty] to think about,” Doner said.
Doner and Pabian are also concerned that American students are paying significantly more for their textbooks than students in other countries. According to a CalPIRG release, students in America pay $122 for Calculus: Early Transcendentals, Edition Five, while Canadian students pay $96 and British students pay $59.
“Students are being slapped with a big financial burden. Students have been resourceful; it’s time for publishers to be as resourceful as students,” said Logan Green, Associated Students external vice president of local affairs.
UC students spend an average of $900 per year on their textbooks, according to a CalPIRG survey.
“The University of California is concerned with the price of textbooks for students,” said Hanan Eisenman, media coordinator at the UC Office of the President. “We’re working with the system-wide Student Government and College Stores to urge publishers to provide lower costs.”