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High textbook prices still a major problem

With the rising cost of tuition, many college students are finding ways to cut down on expenses. One common gripe among students is the cost of textbooks, the backbones of most courses.

Some students look for used books or previous editions of a newly-revised text. Others swap with friends, but many use the University Bookstore to obtain all their materials.

“I haven’t considered anything [besides the bookstore],” said Edgar Gomez, a junior civil engineering student. “Unfortunately, I don’t really study my options.”

Director of Bookstore Services Fred Neely said the University Bookstore does not have control over the books Cal State Long Beach professors choose for their classes. He said instructors have academic freedom, which gives them the right to decide which books they want to use. However, the bookstore does inform teachers about how much their selections will impact student wallets.

“We always let faculty know what textbooks cost,” Neely said.

In lieu of rising costs for textbooks, many students seek relief by buying their books from Web sites like eBay’s Half.com or by using sites like TextbookRevolution.org that provide selected texts for free.

“Online books sellers are competition; there’s no doubt about it,” Neely said. “It’s tough to compete with Amazon.com or Half.com.”

Neely said, despite outside competition, the University Bookstore sells 60 to 70 percent of all required texts in most subjects. He said a majority of CSULB’s faculty uses the bookstore to order books and the campus encourages faculty to use it.

More students will be able to obtain cheaper textbooks if CSULB faculty turn in their book requisitions on time.

Don Penrod, general manager for the Forty-Niner Shops, Inc., said Associated Students Inc. has been very involved in a phone campaign to raise faculty awareness of the benefits of turning in requisitions early. Neely said the work performed by ASI and the Academic Senate has increased the on-time requisitions from about 26 percent of the faculty to 38 percent.

“If we get text requisitions in early, we have more opportunity to acquire used books,” he said. Neely added that the bookstore contacts professors who turn in requests for bundles – books accompanied by CDs, workbooks or online extras – to find out if the additional elements are going to be used for a course. If the extra items are not needed, then the store tries to sell the book separately, which saves students – money.

Penrod said the University Bookstore has also improved its book buy-back in an attempt to control textbook affordability.

States, including Virginia and Connecticut, have adopted legislation encouraging book publishers to keep costs down. Here in California, the California Senate Committee on Education has enacted a bill in 2004 to reduce the cost of textbooks for students.

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