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Friday, September 29, 2023

Academics & Research

Group aims for affordable book prices

University Services held a textbook affordability forum on Wednesday to discuss with faculty members and students what they can do to lower the costs of textbooks.

“Affordability for textbooks is a big deal,” Jonas Chin, program coordinator for University Services, said.

Chin said the bookstore has little control over the cost the publisher wants to place on the book, but there are steps that they can take to help decrease the amount of money students are paying for their books every semester.

“It is important to make sure we do the little things,” Chin said, such as making students and professors aware of the different types of books that are available and the price differences that come with those options.

UH bookstore manager Felix Robinson said many professors are not aware of the variety of book options they have, and they can sometimes be fooled into believing they are saving students money when they are really costing them more.

“Communication is key,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that publishers might offer professors the option of a loose-leaf textbook, a cheaper version than the hardback, which sounds like a great idea.

But what the professors are not aware of, said Robinson, is that most of the time, students are unable to sell back the loose-leaf textbooks, costing them more money than the professor intended due to a communication error.

“It’s ultimately up to the faculty members, the ones who pick the books,” Chemistry professor Simon Bott said.

Chin said that one of the biggest obstacles students face when trying to save money on textbooks is a fairly new feature called an access code. The code is an extra tool that can be purchased along with the textbook to allow students access to additional online features.

Professors will request that their students buy one along with their textbook, but by the end of the semester, many students will have never used it.

Access codes are one-time use only, so the bookstore can’t buy them back if they were used.

Chin said that students can help lower their textbook costs by talking to their professors. If they gain a basic understanding of the textbook options out there, they might be able to present those options to their teachers.

“Professors do care,” Chin said. “There are very few bad apples out there.”

Marc Eckhart, a regional manager for Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, suggested that professors access the Faculty Center Network to help them choose their books.

“It is a complimentary tool in their textbook selection process,” Eckhart said.

The FCN compares the costs and styles of different textbooks offered by many different publishers.

Though different textbook options are available, some students are beginning to look for other options.

“Why don’t we use the facilities we have?” said Student Government Association Business Sen. Tushar Chawla. “[Professors] don’t understand that WebCT is the best thing to use.”

Chawla proposed the idea that professors should look into posting texts and notes online to lower the costs for students every semester.

Chawla said that professors like Simon Bott have already taken this action.

To further help students save money on their books, the bookstore has begun taking back exclusive loose-leaf textbooks.

“If they are in sellable condition, they will buy back the book for half of what students paid for it,” Conrad Stiller, a textbook employee, said.

During the forum, Robinson also said that the bookstore is willing to buy back, at half the price, the access codes that students never used.

Chin emphasized his desire to continue to host these types of forums to educate professors and students about the process of buying and selling textbooks.

“We hope to make this a once-a-semester deal,” Chin said. “Every year is going to get better.”

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