New editions required each year costly for some
Published: Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 03:09
For junior Turquoise Abdullah, the burden of rising textbook prices is made worse by the low returns she gets from reselling the books at the end of each semester.
Abdullah, a science student, said she paid $220 for a specially-packaged anatomy and physiology book. Because the books were packaged especially for the university class, she was required to purchase the newest edition.
"It came with a book, and the lab manual, and a CD, but most of the time nobody uses the CD or the online help, or anything like that," Abdullah said. "I couldn't get it through any other resource."
Publishers print new editions every few years, and many students like Abdullah find that local bookstores refuse to purchase their older versions because many professors require the most recent edition for the forthcoming semester.
Senior biology major Sharonne Temple said she has to buy new editions for her biology classes and does not attempt to sell them back at the end of the semester.
"I don't even bother because if you do get money back, it's not like a significant amount," Temple said. "And my science books, I try to keep them because I might need them for reference, but as technology goes on, it's like older editions don't really matter. I don't know what I'm going to do with my books actually, once I graduate."
Chemistry professor Mary Beth Kramer said she recognizes that requiring students to purchase new textbooks can be a financial challenge for some, but as printing costs rise, publishers must reflect those costs in the price tag. Publishers produce new editions to continue the stream of profits, she said.
"If you didn't redo a book, didn't come out with a new edition, then eventually, the income from that book, as an author, would essentially go to zero because there was so many of the texts out there," Kramer said. "And the same is true for the publisher. The publisher gets nothing on resale."
Senior medical technology major Kaitlyn Hajen said she believes the new editions do not feature substantial improvements compared to older versions.
"They'll add new material, or they might change something around, like some wording, or like add a new chapter and they'll end up having to republish it and they'll consider it a new edition," Hajen said.
Chemistry professor James Wingrave said purchasing the latest edition is sometimes necessary, depending on the level of the course.
"In a graduate level course where you are dealing with cutting edge technology, instrumental methods, things like that, where the textbook should contain the latest research, I think maybe every year or two it makes sense to put out a new textbook." Wingrave said. "But the lower level courses, we're still teaching a lot of fundamentals, many of which haven't changed in 100 years."
He said students who opt to use older editions can still be successful in class, as long as they keep up with readings and remain attentive in class.
Temple said she does not buy new books anymore, and instead rents them from an online book distributor.
"I don't even look at new books anymore, because it's extremely expensive," Temple said. "I either buy used or rent."
Wingrave said it is difficult to decide whether or not to require students to buy the newest book. He believes students may not need to buy textbooks in the future.
"In this next generation, I'm not sure whether they'll have textbooks on their shelves," he said. "Maybe they'll buy them in electronic form, of iPad or something, and refer to them that way. Years ago it was just crystal clear in my mind—if you're in science, buy your general chemistry textbook, you'll need it. Now, I'm not so sure."