Textbook Bundling & Customization
Is There Value?

The inflation of new textbook prices through merchandising practices developed by major textbook publishers is quickly emerging as a higher education industry issue. Textbooks bundled with consumable materials such as CDs, study guides and periodical subscriptions create built-in obsolescence, rendering many books worthless after one year of use. The customization of textbooks is also having a profound effect on both students and bookstores. These practices are costing bookstores and students millions of dollars per year.

By ordering a bundled textbook, you may be negatively affecting your students in two ways. First, when they purchase the book they are forced to pay more because there are no used versions available. And second, after completing the course, they cannot sell the package or custom book back to the bookstore. The student loses on both ends.

 I know publishers’ sales representatives can be very convincing regarding the usefulness of their “value added” materials and custom books. However, based on numerous complaints from students, very often these materials are never used. A recent industry survey of 100 college bookstores identified instances of “custom” textbooks where only the cover was changed.

 What is not mentioned by the publishers’ sales rep is that students will not have the choice to purchase a used textbook or may not be able to sell the book back. In fact, in some cases new books that did not sell out in the previous term must be thrown away because a “value added” bundle, using the same textbook, has been ordered in its place.

 In January, the issue of textbook bundling and customization was examined by the Washington, D.C. – based State PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups).  Their survey of faculty found the following:

-         Half of all textbooks now come “bundled,” and students rarely have the option of buying the textbook as a stand-alone used or new book.
-         Yet 65% of faculty “rarely” or “never” uses the bundled materials in their courses.
-         Seventy-six (76) percent of faculty report that the new editions they use are justified “never” to “half the time.”

(For a copy of the full report, Ripoff 101: How the Current Practices of the Textbook
Industry Drive Up the cost of College Textbooks,
please visit www.connect2one.com.)

 At this point, textbook publishing has tilted away from the students, teachers and the campus bookstore in favor of the large publishers. The result: The students lose; the environment loses because fewer and fewer books are recycled; faculty is often misled or subtly manipulated by the sales reps; and local bookstores must eventually consider raising prices or cutting back on services and jobs.

 We understand that some bundled and custom published texts provide a real value for the students and are a valuable adjunct to learning.  The last thing we want is to appear to be trying to influence your choice of textbooks. But we do want you to be aware of the effect that packages and custom books with no real added value are having on the student and the bookstore.

 Again, let me reassure you that we will continue to order whatever book you choose. We welcome you to call or stop by the store if you would like more information or to see some examples of textbook bundling and customization.  Or, you can learn more about the growing grassroots concerns about the textbook publishing industry’s merchandising practices on www.connect2one.com.

For a PDF document with examples please go here:  http://www.connect2one.com/_pdfs/ProjectHELP_Report.pdf

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