Bill would lower textbook prices

by Beacon Staff • February 2, 2006

State Representative Steven M. Walsh (D-Lynn) is sponsoring a bill that would require publishers to disclose information about whether or not textbook editions will be renewed and would allow books and their accompanying materials to be sold separately.,For the many students used to paying premiums for texts in the bookstore, proposed legislation might offer some relief.

State Representative Steven M. Walsh (D-Lynn) is sponsoring a bill that would require publishers to disclose information about whether or not textbook editions will be renewed and would allow books and their accompanying materials to be sold separately.

The bill's supporters say it will help professors to make more educated decisions regarding textbook selection, allowing students to buy books that will not become obsolete as quickly. According to an article in The Boston Globe last month, the bill could go to the Massachusetts House floor before the end of the year, and would result in lower textbook costs as early as the 2006-2007 academic year.

Many students interviewed said they were disinclined to purchase at the bookstore, located on the first floor of 80 Boylston St., because of high costs and lack of book availability.

Lyndsay Mills, a freshman marketing communication major, said she was charged about $80 for her Spanish II textbook and received the wrong editions of two other texts before returning her books and electing to get them off of the Internet.

Mills said she used abebooks.com and was able to get the same Spanish textbook for $6.50, including express shipping charges.

"I'm never buying books from [the Emerson bookstore] again," Mills said. "Even with shipping, the books online were much cheaper and came in only two days."

Freshman film major Jill Garreffi said she also thinks the bookstore's prices are too high.

"Right now I buy [books] at Amazon.com, and the bookstore would get more business from me if the prices were lower or comparable to Amazon," Gareffi said.

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS) Web site, the average price for a new textbook is $52.36.

With most Emerson students taking four courses each semester, this number quickly climbs to more than $200 in textbook expenses for just one semester.

There are sometimes used books available in the bookstore, but in many instances these are not easy to get, as textbooks are constantly being updated in order to provide students with the most current information.

This can be frustrating for students like junior theatre major Noah Himmelstein, who was unable to buy used texts.

"I had to buy a new version of my textbook for History of the Modern World," Himmelstein said. "They had completely stopped printing the old one."

Cliff Ewert, director of public relations at the bookstore's corporate parent, Follett Co., declined to comment on either the bookstore's current services or potential benefits of the new bill.

The pricing of textbooks is not entirely under the bookstore or Follett Co.'s control. According to the NACS Web site, 64.7 percent of the price of a college textbook goes directly to the book publisher.

This money is used for the supplies used to produce the books, the employees and back into the company itself to continue book production. The individual bookstores then price the texts.

Therefore, the more the publisher charges, the higher the cost for the student, as the bookstore price is based off a percent of the book price, the Web site said.

By regulating the price of textbooks when they leave the publisher, the bill could allow bookstores to sell their wares at a lower price. Many students interviewed said they think this would have a positive effect on their wallets.

"[If it passes,] I can spend my money paying for my new apartment I'm moving into in the South End," freshman marketing communication major Richie Nolan said.

Some students, like freshman broadcast journalism major Katie Fox, said that the lower costs allowed by the bill would provide the bookstore with more business.

"I usually don't shop at the bookstore, but if this new law passes, I would definitely start buying my books there again," Fox said.

Amanda Pinto contributed to this report.