UCSB students pay more for textbooks, on average, than any other UC, according to a new study released by the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG).
The UCSB chapter of CalPIRG made the study public at a press conference Tuesday in the UCen. The report, titled “Rip-Off 101: How the Publishing Industry’s Practices Needlessly Drive Up Textbook Costs,” details the nationwide rising cost of college textbooks. The report states that the average UC student will spend $900 a year on textbooks. Second-year political science major Justin Pabian, the CalPIRG chapter campaign coordinator, said UCSB students spend an average of $960 per year – the most out of all UC students – on schoolbooks. At the press conference, Pabian said that the rising cost of college textbooks is caused by the greed of publishing companies.
“The bottom line is [that] textbook prices have skyrocketed and publishers are ripping off students by artificially inflating prices,” Pabian said. “This is an industrywide problem.”
The report said that textbook prices have increased at more than four times the rate of inflation since 1994, and publishers routinely and unnecessarily release new editions. The study based its findings on what it said were five widely purchased textbooks at 59 American colleges and universities.
In response to the CalPIRG study, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) – the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry – issued a press release saying the survey used “flawed methodology, selective use of data and lack of acknowledgement of research data that offer a different point of view.” Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for the Pearson Education textbook publishing company, said the report is fatally flawed because it discusses wholesale, rather than retail prices.
“[CalPIRG] looks at a ‘rack rate’ for book prices,” Spiegel said. “We look at what students actually pay.”
Pabian used the textbook Calculus, Early Transcendals, 5th Edition – published by Thomson Learning and used by UCSB students – as an example of artificial inflation. The 5th edition cost $130 dollars, while a used copy of the 4th edition cost anywhere from $10 to $100, with a minimal difference between the two editions, Pabian said.
“The most significant change is that new math problems have been added,” Pabian said. “Is it really necessary for students to pay $40 or more for new exercises? New editions are often unjustified.”
Spiegel said CalPIRG’s claim that prices are being raised over time was not consistent with industry findings.
“Industry research says that textbook prices have gone up the rate of inflation – 2.5 percent per year,” she said, citing studies by Zogby International.
CalPIRG’s survey also found that textbook publishers charge American students an average of 20 percent more than overseas students for the same textbooks. For example, Pearson Education’s Calculus, 8th Edition, has an average price of $100 dollars in the U.S., but can be found for $38 on the United Kingdom (U.K.) amazon.com/ www.amazon.com website, the report said.
Bruce Hildebrand, AAP executive director for higher education, said CalPIRG’s claims about foreign textbook prices are shortsighted.
“We sell into foreign markets based largely on the income of the people in those markets,” Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand said the competitive publishing industry in the U.K. compels publishers to decrease prices in order to gain market share.
In the press release, the AAP said it is willing to work with CalPIRG, but the purchase of textbooks is ultimately the responsibility of professors and academic departments.
“PIRG knows, as we do, that the faculty make the ultimate decisions on what textbooks and instructional materials are best for their students’ education,” AAP’s press release said.