College students are currently waiting for California Assembly Bill 1548, the College Textbook Transparency Act, to take effect in 2010.
Signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October 2007, AB 1548 requires publishers to print changes made on or inside of textbooks, distinguishing them from previous editions.
Students and instructors are working together to alleviate the financial burdens.
Zeynep Toker, an urban studies and planning assistant professor, has been an advocate for making readings accessible for students on WebCT.
“Scholarly work is constantly being updated, which is a great thing, but not all students are capable and have the resources to continually buy new books,” said Toker. “It is a disadvantage for the student.”
Before each semester, Toker can be found making copies in the faculty workroom and uploading them to WebCT. It is a time consuming task, but she said she feels it is important for students to have this cost-friendly resource.
Working to the advantage of students, texts on WebCT have criteria that need to be met. Everything has to be identifiable by reading software for the blind and texts have to be legible.
“Having readings on WebCT is like having a book on reserve in the library,” said Toker. “The website is only accessible through username and password, making it free of any copyright issues.”
In recent years, new editions of textbooks have received some changes including the addition of CD-ROMs, packaging and updating of chapters.
Minus the extra packaging, Toker gives her students the option of downloading or purchasing readers to help them avoid costly new editions.
Toker said she let her students use an older edition a few semesters ago and scanned the updated section for them. The reader was available for $20, making both cheaper than a new textbook for $100.
“I can’t notice the difference,” said Laurie Van Wagenen, a senior urban studies and planning major. “Textbooks are so expensive, and new issues come out so often that, by the end of the semester, you can’t even sell your books back.”
Van Wagenen said she has only had one professor at CSUN who has kept the same book. She thinks professors should keep the same text for at least a couple of years or put them on WebCT.
Publishers turn out large amounts of textbooks each semester at college students’ expense. Spending $300 to $500 on average per semester on textbooks, students have resorted to outsource retailers, when cheaper alternatives are not available.
“Selling a textbook almost immediately after it’s been purchased is the only way to get a respectable return,” said junior political science major Bijan Hansen. “I get all my books online because the bookstore is outrageously expensive.”