Textbook transparency bill signed by governor

Megan McFadden

Students will be able to experience relief in terms of paying for pricey textbooks in 2010, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed California Assembly Bill 1548 into law.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill on Oct. 13.

AB 1548, also known as known as the College Textbook Transparency Act, will require publishers to print on or inside of textbooks changes made to them from previous editions.

The bill will also require the posting of pricing policies and the wholesale price of textbooks in bookstores.

“(SB 832) focuses strictly on textbook publisher policies and fails to recognize that the affordability of textbooks is a shared responsibility among publishers, college bookstores and faculty members,” Schwarzenegger wrote of the bill, which will be in effect in three years. “Many of the same concepts in SB 832 are included in AB 1548, but AB 1548 recognizes the shared responsibility and attempts to address the issue in a more comprehensive manner.”

The College Textbook Transparency Act was introduced by Assemblyman Jose Solorio and supported by the California State Student Association, the California Teacher’s Association and the Association of American Publishers.

SB 832, also known as the College Textbook Affordability Act, had similar requirements. But the bill would’ve required publishers to provide an estimate of how long an edition would remain unrevised. The bill required faculty members to provide the information to students.

“I’m not sure how it will help with textbook prices, but it seems to be a good idea,” said Karen, an 18-year-old business law major, who said she spends $600 to $700 a semester on textbooks.

Karen said it was good to know the changes made from previous editions because sometimes they’ll “just change the cover” and increase the price.

Catherine Klein, a 22-year-old senior child development major, said, “I’m glad something happened, but what about changes for right now.”

Klein, who’ll be an alumna by the time the law is in effect, said publishers shouldn’t take advantage of students, who have no choice but to buy textbooks professors choose.

The law will require publishers to provide textbook prices and changes made to the newest editions to faculty members before they choose them for their courses.

In a Sept. 24 Los Angeles Times articles, Solorio said, “I’m holding everybody accountable. I just want to ensure over time that the price of textbooks comes down.”

In an e-mail that was reviewed by the CSUN public relations department, Amy Berger, director of the Matador Bookstore, said, “The issue is one of providing the best education and should have been resolved between school administrations, faculty, publishers and the bookstores since they have more intimate knowledge of course material usage.”

“The bookstore supports any legislation that helps students to save money on their textbook purchases,” Berger said in the e-mail.

Berger also said in the e-mail that the bookstore offered $1.5 million worth of used textbooks to students this semester.

“Our goal is to continually work with publishers, faculty and students to help control costs,” Berger said.

Mayuri Kalu and Karolina Khelbnikova, both 24-year-old senior chemistry majors, said they spend $500 to $600 a semester on textbooks.

Kalu said, “They are overpriced and keep changing editions when it’s the same thing.”

Something needs to be done, Kalu said.

Khlebnikova said she buys her textbooks from Web sites such as eBay and Amazon.com.

The “bookstore is always more expensive,” Khelbnikova said.

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