New law aims to hold the line on textbook costs

July 31, 2010
By: Nicole Lauer

A federal law aimed at making college textbooks more affordable went into effect in July, and Quad-Cities colleges report they are meeting its requirements.

The law requires textbook publishers to disclose prices and revision plans when they're making their sales pitch to professors and to unbundle textbooks from CDs, workbooks and other add-ons that hike the price and may or may not be useful to students.

The law also requires a list of textbooks and prices be provided to students during registration, giving students the opportunity to plan for the full cost of their next load of classes.

Book costs vary depending on type of study, with nursing or science students typically requiring more expensive textbooks than English majors.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who wrote the original version of the law, said the idea is to help college students, who spend $800 to $1,200 on textbooks each year. Local colleges said book costs vary widely depending on majors, but average about $1,000 each year.

Students at Augustana College and St. Ambrose University had the benefit of knowing book prices at registration time last fall and Black Hawk College was in compliance by the spring semester.

College spokespersons said the schools also are working with students in other ways to cut book costs.

Augustana, SAU and BHC said they set up online sites for students to access the name of selected texts, prices and purchase numbers at the time registration opens. This information can help them search out books at online sites such as or and shop around for other deals.

"It wasn't a major adjustment because a lot of these things we're already doing," said Kaye Quick, BHC's director of auxiliary services and overseer of campus bookstores in Moline and Kewanee. "We wanted students to have the information and for it to be as available to students as it can be."

Textbook adoption dates at the college had to be moved up about a month so faculty can make their selections and provide time to make that information available to students.

"Ithink overall most of the instructors didn't seem to be upset by it. They understood how important it was for students as well."

Ms. Quick said the college has adapted well to the changes and she thinks it's paying off.

"Ithink it benefits everybody. It totally benefits students that they have the information in time,"she said. "We have students who have to come up with their own money to fund their schooling. This way they are not shocked when they walk in the day of class and have to put down another $475."

Sonda Reinartz, bookstore manager for Augustana College, said, "Ithink it helps for them to have that knowledge up front. I don't know if the cost of a book will determine whether they take that course, but the cost of the book may determine whether they buy it somewhere else."

SAU administrators said they also think the information is helping students to shop for the best deal.

"I think it does allow them to see what the cost of books is very early on and they can go out in the process and find the best deals they can find for themselves," Mike Poster, SAU's vice president for finance.

Striving for other ways to save students money, Augustana this fall has linked with Follett Higher Education, a book rental service that can save students 25 to 50 percent depending on the book. SAU administrators they are considering a similar option and hope to implement it by next fall.

Kamy Beattie, Augustana spokeswoman, said some faculty members are opting for open source books. These resources can be available to students free of charge online or students can choose to pay a reduced fee for a print copy.