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Ritter signs textbook bill

Measure aims at making book bills more affordable

Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill into law today that requires publishers to be more upfront about the costs of college textbooks — a measure that proponents say will help keep the skyrocketing prices in check.

The measure -- which was carried by Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, and Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins -- requires publishers to "unbundle" textbooks so students are no longer forced to buy expensive extras, such as CD tutorials, which come packaged with their books.

Both legislators' districts cover college campuses.

The bill also requires publishers to disclose a textbook's price to professors and the public, as well as reveal substantial content revisions between editions.

“This is a consumer right-to-know bill for students and educators alike,” Ritter said today. “It represents an important step toward transparency and will help students and their families plan their budgets. Textbooks cost students hundreds of dollars a semester, and with two students in college myself, I know that every dollar counts.”

Ritter’s oldest son, August, is a senior at Colorado State University and was one of several students who advocated in favor of the bill on behalf of the Associated Students of Colorado, a statewide higher-education lobbying group that works closely with the University of Colorado's student government.

A congressionally mandated report released last year showed that an average student at a public, four-year school pays $900 a year for books. That cost is often the toppling point for low-income students, preventing them from enrolling in college, the report says.

Students have complained that their editions frequently change, and they can’t sell their books back at the end of the semester.

Some CU professors raised concern about the legislation earlier, saying it undercuts their academic freedom and responsibility to choose the best materials for their students. And CU Regent Tom Lucero, R-Johnstown, criticized the measure, saying the government should not interfere with the free market.

Comments

Posted by mattq331 on April 8, 2008 at 3:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Silly law - it might garner Ritter some uninformed votes - but messing with market forces in this manner almost always results in unintended consequences.

Posted by boulderbikerfan1 on April 8, 2008 at 3:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I disagree - this is no different, or no more market manipulation, than legal requirements for other industries (auto manufacturer for example). This is a step in the right direction for eliminating "required" purchases (see above example of bundled software) and allows the consumer (read: student) more flexibility in the shopping experence. Textbook manufacturers have long sought to increase profit through this obvious manipulation of "edition changes", forcing students to purchase (most often with federal loan money) textbook extras that were never utilized.

I like the move and feel like it forces manufacturers to adopt a healthier marketing attitude to young shopper/consumers - if they want to sell more CD Reference or Online Training materials, they should promote them as a complimentary, stand alone product and not a forced purchase through POS textbook transactions.

Posted by moabite on April 8, 2008 at 3:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Messing with market forces? How does forcing a publisher to reveal prices and changes to editions mess with 'market forces'?

Professors are still free to choose whatever book they want, and students are still free to share books with other students or get by with an older edition.

I know several people who have published textbooks, and they admit new editions are for the most part nothing short of a racket. I knew a statistics prof that put out a new edition to correct a few minor mistakes and misspellings and add some index entires. Absolutely nothing of any consequence, since errata had already been published, but the racket rolls into action, and schools toss the old edition, require the new, and the buyback of the old editions drops to pennies on the dollar. It is called churn in the publishing industry.

Posted by katmcmahan on April 8, 2008 at 5:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank God they did this. I never use those stupid CD's anyway. . .

Posted by freethinker07 on April 8, 2008 at 8:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What market forces? These are monopolies. The professor chooses a book. Either one he wrote or one that his friend wrote.

Or maybe the one that he got a promotional copy of so he didn't have to buy it.

Or maybe, just maybe, the author could sell the book on DVD. It would cost a fraction of what it costs to print on dead trees.

The DVD's could sell for $12 plus whatever the author wanted to make on them. $2 a piece for copying and $10 to the bookstore.

Posted by justin on April 8, 2008 at 11:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The textbook industry isn't dominated so much by "market forces" as it is by the cabal of publishers who mark up books to criminally inflated prices.

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