January 22, 2009
During December 2008, the Office of the State Comptroller issued a report on the pricing of college textbooks at both the State University and City University campus bookstores. OSC compared the pricing of textbooks at college bookstores to prices available through online booksellers. OSC also looked at (1) the availability of textbook information provided to students to determine whether students would be able to find other low cost alternatives for purchasing required textbooks and (2) revisions to new editions to determine whether requiring students purchase the new edition appear appropriate. The OSC report did not take into consideration the additional time required to receive books purchased online or the economic benefit to both New York State and the campuses by having students purchase books from local and campus bookstores.
- Students could save an average of $245 per semester, representing an average savings of 39.6 percent over the campus bookstore price, by purchasing books online.
- Adequate information regarding required textbooks was not readily available to student which would allow them to seek alternative sources such as online booksellers for purchasing textbooks.
- The newest edition of textbooks was required, even if only minor revisions to the text were made, which minimizes the opportunity to make better use of used books.
- Colleges should post a full course listing with required textbooks on their websites at least six weeks prior to the start of classes to allow students time to comparison shop for the best textbook prices.
- Posted textbook lists should include the specific ISBN of each textbook, along with the title, author, edition and publisher, and the campus bookstore price for the book.
- If other textbook editions or printings would be acceptable alternatives to the required textbook version, the ISBNs and other identifying information should be listed for these versions, as well.
- Textbook edition changes should be limited to instances where significant updates in content occur. This would enable students to purchase used books, which often come at a large discount compared to the price of new books.
- Colleges should broaden their efforts to encourage faculty members to get their textbook orders in early so that bookstores have more time to secure used copies of their books.
OSC Textbook Pricing Disparities Report: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/highered/textbookpricing12-18-08.pdf
Both the State and Federal government passed legislation related to textbooks regarding transparent marketing, choice, pricing and purchasing of course materials. The legislation is effective July 1, 2009 and July 1, 2010, respectively. Counsel's Office is working on guidance related to these laws and will be providing that in the near future. The legislation can be found at:
State: http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi?COMMONQUERY=LAWS and
For additional information, please contact the Office of the University Auditor at 518-320-1533 or University.Audit@sysadm.suny.edu