Rising costs of textbooks prove to be concerning

Rising textbook costs have become an increasing financial concern for students, leaving many to look for ways to alleviate the costs by renting textbooks and advocating for digital textbooks.

“The issue is that the average student spends around $900 a year on textbooks,” Lucas Zucker, a UC Berkeley senior and member of CalPIRG, said. “We need to explore other resources that we can use.”

Amanda Reese, assistant store director of the Cal Student Store, said the store has begun offering choices including rental, digital, new and used textbooks as a way to address issues relating to textbook costs.

In 2010, the Cal Student Store implemented the Rent-A-Text program lets students rent new or used books at the start of the semester and return them at the end of the semester.

“Used books are sold at a discounted rate (generally around 25%) while renting a textbook via Rent-A-Text saves students, on average, 50 percent or more compared to purchasing a new textbook,” Reese said.

Ned’s Berkeley Bookstore on Bancroft Way has a similar program in which students can pay half the cost to purchase a book and return it.

While students and bookstores have adjusted to a perceived price increase, Stephen Rhoads, principal consultant for Strategic Education Services, on behalf of the Association of American Publishers, said in an April 10 letter addressed to Senator Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, student spending on course materials has been flat or declining since 2006.

“While no two schools are exactly alike, at UC Berkeley an on-campus student’s 2011-2012 core costs were $32,632,” Rhoads said. “The cost of books and supplies dropped 8.6 percent in 2011-12 and now represent less than 4 percent of students’ costs.”

In response to concerns, two state Senate bills which would create a digital library with open source textbooks for the 50 most popular lower division courses at colleges passed at a hearing of the Senate Education Committee on April 11.

If the bills are signed into law, students could download digital textbooks for free or pay around $20 for a hard copy.