New Law on Books

By The Beacon | April 14, 2010 9:00pm

New textbook law aims to save student money

The world of college textbooks is changing. (Lauren Seynhaeve | THE BEACON)

By Hannah Gray, Staff Writer

Textbooks are an expensive fact of life for college students and their parents. But a new federal law that takes effect July 1 is intended to ease the impact.

The federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 will require textbook publishers and bookstores to reveal more information about the books they sell.

It also will require professors to turn in textbook and supplies information earlier, and place restrictions on the sale of "bundles," the often high-priced textbook/workbook/CD or DVD combinations.

"We are supposed to ensure that students have all the information they need to make educating buying decisions," said Jade Roth, the vice president for Barnes and Noble College Bookstores. "We are certainly planning on being compliant."

Under the new rules, colleges and universities will have to post information on the required texts as students register for classes.

This will not only give them more time to shop around, but also give them an edge in selling their used textbooks.

"I'm hoping it will help get book orders in earlier so we can buy back more books from students," said Erin Bright, the manager of the UP bookstore, which is owned and operated by Barnes and Noble College Bookstores.

"The best possible outcome: buying back more books and having more used books on the shelf," she said.

As of Tuesday,  the  bookstore has received only 26 percent of the fall book orders from professors.

"Right now, unfortunately, I get a lot of orders during the summer after buy-back," Bright said.

If professors do not submit their book orders before buy-back week, the bookstore is limited on the number of books it can buy back from students.

"I think this will be a good thing," Bright said. "I want to get as many used books as possible."

Although the aim of the law is to provide more information so students have a variety of options, and more time to plan and comparison shop, some students believe knowing the textbook requirements and prices early will affect their registration decisions.

"Obviously this is going to affect students because we are going to look at core classes based on the book prices," said sophomore Michelle Olson.

"If it were me, I would choose a class with a cheaper book," Olson said.

Another part of the HEOA mandates that book sellers list a book's ISBN – international standard book number.

Additionally, publishers will be unable to force buyers to purchase book bundles.

Whether or not publishers will be allowed to bundle books and other media will depend on how strongly the material is integrated, according to Roth.

"It's going to depend on how publishers categorize their books," Roth said.

While the new regulation on book bundles is intended to save students money, some professors wonder if it will have the opposite effect.

"I currently do not have (my) students purchase books in bundles – though I know in the past that the bundles saved students money," said Chad O'Lynn, a nursing professor, in an e-mail.

"I wonder if students will pay more for books if required books aren't bundled in a package," O'Lynn said.

Another area of the HEOA mandates that college bookstores list the changes made to each new edition of textbooks.

However, Bright said the compilation of the changes rests on the publisher's part.

Copyright information of the three previous editions must also be provided as well, so students have the opportunity to buy older, less expensive textbooks.

"With a couple of my classes now, I was able to buy older editions because there wasn't any information from the new editions that was critical for my courses," Olson said.

For Olson's Entrepreneurial Marketing class, she was allowed to opt for an older, cheaper edition.

"I think it is good they are going to show what they are adding or removing from older editions," Olson said.

Nursing 310 and 424 – Introduction to Population Health: Nursing in a Multicultural Context and Applied Population Heath: Nursing in a Multicultural Context – use the same book. However, new editions of the book are issued frequently, and the classes are about a year apart.

However, Diane Vines, a nursing professor, allows the Nursing 424 students to use the edition they purchased a year earlier for Nursing 310.

"That's why I work a year behind in terms of textbooks," Vines said. "So (students) don't have to buy a second book."

The HEOA also mandates that publishers include textbook prices when discussing textbooks with college faculty, which is currently a rare practice.