Senate bill could save students money on textbooks

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Nick Sestanovich

Education is priceless, but the cost of textbooks to receive that education is through the roof.

Textbook prices are insanely high. Since 2002, prices have increased 82 percent, according to a Government Accountability Office report. No matter how few classes I take in a semester, I always seem to be spending in the triple digits, which is sometimes unfair if I’m assigned a book that is used very little by the professor.

Thankfully, there’s a Senate bill aiming to fix the problem.

The Affordable College Textbook Act, written by senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Al Franken, D-Minn., is attempting to make books cheaper and promote open source textbooks, according to The Atlantic. Open source textbooks are books offered for free online under an open license.

This isn’t the first attempt to make books more affordable for students. In 2007, the College Textbook Affordability Act attempted a similar goal but was vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, the Senate will vote to make textbooks cheaper on a national level.

As much as I tend to prefer having physical books as opposed to reading one online, I think this could help solve the overpriced textbook problem. As students are already paying a fortune for tuition, housing and food, it will be important for them to save money on something.

I think a lot of good things could result from this bill. One is that students will be able to save money on textbooks legally, resulting in far less downloading from illegal sites. Open source textbooks are licensed legally and approved by the publishers, so that’s one less thing the textbook companies will have to worry about.

Books in poor condition will also be a thing of the past. Students will never have to worry about buying damaged books or getting charged for returning books in mediocre condition. The quality of a website is usually going to stay consistent.

There’s also no denying the interactivity of open source textbooks. I know textbooks often have practice quizzes, but students don’t usually take advantage of those if they aren’t assigned. With interactive quizzes and flashcards available on open source textbook sites, students should feel more encouraged to try those out to have better understanding of the course material.

However, this bill may present a major problem: if books are going to be offered to students for free, how will the textbook companies make any money? Honestly, I can’t work up too much sympathy for companies that think the best way to combat the money lost from used books is to charge more for new editions of textbooks with only slight changes, but I see where this would be an issue.

If the companies lose a significant chunk of their salary because of open source textbooks, this could mean they will have less money to produce new books and materials. The bill is going to have to address the question of how the textbook companies will earn a profit and perhaps be able to work out some kind of compromise.

Besides this issue, I support the bill from a personal standpoint. I’m tired of having to shell out hundreds of dollars on books that are worth very little when I return them at the end of the semester.

I’m sure a lot of students feel the same way. For those who are fed up paying too much for textbooks, fret not. The Senate is doing something good for a change.

Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.