| 03.18.2018

Time to lower textbook costs – Students should sign the petition for open textbooks


As a senior in the English Department, I”m not immune to the high cost of textbooks.

This semester alone set me back more than $250, and that”s a drop in the bucket compared to other students. Whether it”s a few huge, heavy textbooks or a dozen small novels, the cost of college textbooks is unaffordable for all of us. That”s why I”m asking every student on our campus to sign a petition at uidaho.edu/open-textbooks.

Anne Zabala
ASUI Senator

ASUI is encouraging faculty to adopt “open textbooks” that students can download for free or print at a low cost by cutting out the middle man – publishing corporations. It”s a win for students and professors alike, because professors can modify and edit these materials to suit their courses, providing a textbook that can be tailored to each course.

So how are open textbooks cheaper? Publishing companies receive more than 70 percent of the profit on each textbook we buy. This money does cover some of the basic printing costs, which accounts for about 30 percent of the cost of each book. The rest of the money pays for marketing, development of unnecessary new versions, pointless CDs and online materials, as well as all of the salaries and earnings for these companies.

I, along with many others, want to change this. This week, over 650 Vandals have signed the petition to reduce the cost of textbooks, and that number of students is still growing.

The online comment section of any website is a dark, sad place I would not normally venture, but reading through the comments on the petition, I saw students in unanimous agreement, who all had a lot to say.

Aimee Walsh wrote, “I am signing this because spending high amounts on textbooks can be hard for some people when they already struggle to pay for school. I have been in a place where I couldn”t afford to buy the $200 textbook and my grade suffered because of it.”

Another student, Stephanie Moore, wrote, “I can”t afford both books and food. I have to choose to either eat or pass my classes right now.”

Olivia Dowling complained that this semester alone her textbooks cost more than $1,000.

My personal favorite came from Colten Bernauer who said, “the last 8 editions have only changed the font.”

Why should Bernauer be forced to buy the most recent, significantly more expensive version of a textbook that has only made minor changes over the years? Whether you don”t buy the book and your educational performance suffers or you do and pay dearly, you lose. There”s really no choice.

The problem isn”t that there is an argument about whether or not textbooks cost too much. I doubt you could find one undergraduate student at the University of Idaho who disagrees that they are too expensive. The question is – what are we going to do about it?

Open textbooks is an affordable, practical solution. The more students who sign, the stronger our argument will be for bringing open textbooks to UI. If you haven”t already, sign the petition today.

Anne Zabala  is an ASUI Senator.  She can be reached at  azabala@uidaho.edu

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