Student activists raise awareness about effect of increasing textbook prices Wednesday

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Rachael Garner/Senior Staff

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A group of student activists took to the Sproul Hall steps Wednesday morning to circulate information regarding a report on how increasing textbook prices affect college students nationwide.

The report — published by the public interest research group CalPIRG — is based on a survey of approximately 5,000 students, 882 of which are from California. According to the report, the cost of college textbooks has increased by 73 percent since 2006.

According to the study, more than 36.6 percent of students said they have used financial aid to pay for their textbooks, meaning undergraduate students in the United States spend a total of $3 billion of financial aid on textbooks every year.

CalPIRG suggests openly licensed textbooks as a “powerful solution” to the rising cost of textbooks. Open licenses such as Creative Commons licenses allow intellectual property to be used and copied for the public.

“In direct contrast to traditional publishers who strictly control every facet of access and use of their textbooks … open textbooks are available for free online, are free to download and are affordable in print,” said CalPIRG student representative Kelly Jiang at the event.

As part of his financial wellness campaign, ASUC Student Action Senator Andre Luu said he plans to work with CalPIRG to draft an ASUC resolution that will urge campus administration and professors to consider open source textbooks as a viable alternative.

“As a low-income student myself, textbook affordability is extremely important to me,” Luu said. “I am sick and tired of paying for $100 readers or textbooks that I end up never using again, and I can’t even sell them because they become outdated.”

Luu also emphasized that students from all backgrounds are affected by textbook prices, not just low-income students.

ASUC Student Action Senator William Morrow said every student needs textbooks to achieve the education they deserve at UC Berkeley.

Some students on campus purchase more textbooks than others. Ram Kal, a UC Berkeley freshman, said many of his classes use online textbooks or do not require them.

“I’m a computer science major, so a lot of the textbooks are all open source material, but I have friends who have to spend a lot on textbooks,” Kal said.

Students also expressed grievances with expensive custom UC Berkeley editions of textbooks that cost more than the original versions. Sidarth Jayadev, a campus freshman, said there is little difference in content between the two editions, but there is a big difference in price.

Jayadev said he was a victim of inflated textbook prices last year and looked for his books online this semester.

“One way to cheat the system is if you find a PDF online, then you get it for free,” he said.

Maya Eliahou is the lead student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MayaEliahou.

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  • ShadrachSmith

    Books are an academic racket. Figure a work-around.

    • lspanker

      Oh, I absolutely agree with that, but I note that no proposals to deal with the situation were forthcoming. Seems that Berkeley types are far better at protesting and complaining than coming up with working solutions to their problems. Perhaps it’s to be expected of those who are philosophically opposed to personal accountability or self-sufficiency – they instead think their jobs is to complain so somebody else solves the problem for them.

      • UmActually

        While yes, you can find many of the textbooks online, some classes offer no choice but to buy the textbook. Often, very new books cannot be found online and old versions cannot be used because problems are different. Other times, classes have books made specifically for that class for that year so you have to buy it through the college and its useless after your year.

    • Students need to start pirating books if prices are unjustly set. Libgen is a good resource

  • have these students ever heard of just pirating their textbooks? punch the publishers where it hurts: their bottom line

  • CalAlum99

    Overall inflation since the late ’70s is ~300%, textbook prices are over 1,000%. I should have bought stock in college textbook publishers.

  • lspanker

    And your solution is what again?