Textbooks are expensive [Captain Obvious]

With the spring semester starting up, a timely report on textbook pricing appeared on Digg last week.

From the Business Shrink:

The DOE study states that full-time students at four-year public colleges spend an average of $893 a year on textbooks and about $10 less a year for two-year students. The most interesting figure from this study is that since 1986, the textbook prices have risen almost 186 percent, or 6 percent a year. When you look at other product prices in the market they all generally rose by about 3 percent. Some public and private universities publish their own figures of college textbook costs for a student per year and they range from $400 – $1,300.

It’s pretty easy to breeze past these figures when you’re amidst paying for these books, but these staggering numbers reveal just how much the book publishing industry, working with the Universities, are ripping off students hand-over-fist on these costs.

I try to bypass the campus bookstore if at all possible.  I’m too much of a bum to get in there early to get any quality used books, leaving you having to pay the inflated retail price for the new book.  Taking my search on-line, I’ve had a lot of success with BigWords.com, which functions as a textbook search engine.  However, now you’re in the race against the clock, hoping to receive the textbook before you actually need it. I’ve been burned by this before.

Being a small-government conservative, I like to avoid using legislation to fix problems, but this may be a case where this may be necessary.  I would love a "Student’s Textbook Bill of Rights" be drafted either on the federal or state level.  This bill, among other things would include the following provisions:

  • Universities would be required to publish required course materials on-line and make them available to students at the time of registration.  Students deserve the right to have the time look for a reasonable price without having to go to the school’s bookstore.
  • Universities would be required to purchase and stock 10% of the course’s enrollment that would be available in the school’s library.
  • Textbooks have to be selected on a department-wide level (most are, but there are a few professors who want to force you to buy that extra book). By default Universities are limited to changing out text books once every two years.  This would ensure that a majority of students would have a reasonable experience re-selling or buying used books.  There could be some exception process in the cases of certain subjects/courses.

What kind of provisions do you feel need to be in the Textbook BoR?