Seeing the final price tag for a semester’s worth of textbooks can be a painful sight for many students, but a new law could provide some relief.
A national law, effective July 1, will seek to lower the cost of textbooks for college students. But without many professors aware of the new regulations, it seems that relief may be delayed.
U. Iowa student Bill Ganske, who spent between $400 and $500 last semester, said he would appreciate any help alleviating the financial burden.
“It would be nice to have cheaper textbooks, especially if they’re available online or in any computer form that would make it cheaper,” he said.
A section added in 2008 to the national Higher Education Opportunity Act requires textbook publishers to be more transparent in supplying professors with the prices and formats, including digital versions, of all available textbooks.
Book publishers will be required to disclose the price of the text they are supplying, the copyright dates of previous editions, and any significant changes that have been made to the text since the last previous edition.
Also mandated is the “unbundling” of textbooks, requiring that any supplemental text sold with another book be made available for separate purchase.
At present, professors can request the price of a textbook, but companies are not required to disclose that information.
The UI lists a rough cost of $1,090 of books and supplies for the fall semester.
While the new provisions go into effect in roughly a week, some professors said they weren’t aware of the details in the new law or how it may affect their choices for texts.
UI psychology Professor Michael O’Hara said the new law may not change much in his department, because it tends to follow a specific text as each new edition is released.
“We tend to select books based upon content and what will best fit students’ education needs,” he said.
Engineering Professor David Andersen agreed: “We always work hard to get the cheapest and best textbooks for our students.”
Neither of the professors were fully aware of the changes, a pitfall local book stores employees said they’re noticing.
The new law presses professors to adhere to more strict deadlines to state required texts for each class, allowing more time for local stores to acquire them.
Many professors do not follow deadlines for placing orders with a bookstore, often making it difficult to receive a text by the start of classes, said Ellen Thomas, a manager at the University Bookstore.
“Orders have only recently started [for the fall semester], and in some cases, professors do not turn in textbook orders until after the semester begins,” she said.
In addition, when bookstores know in advance what texts a class plans to use, they are able to increase the buyback value for students selling the used versions of the book, said Pete Vanderhoef, a manager at Iowa Book.
And UI students said some relief on textbook pricing is desperately needed.
“It’ll be nice [for professors] to have that information, knowing where the cheapest books are,” said UI student Kevin Tempel.