Fairfield English professor Ruth Anne Baumgartner can remember paying $100 for all of her textbooks back in college. Today, students pay that much, sometimes more, for only one book.

“It is not proportional at all,” said Baumgartner. “It is shocking. We have created an out-of-control monster.”

She explained why textbooks are so expensive.

“Textbook prices are high for a number of reasons, starting with the fast and furious used-book market, which started because of the high cost of books,” she said. “I’m not sure what can be done about it. I have seen alternatives, such as online publishing, but I still think it is important to hold a book in your hand.”

Matt Brennan ’10 said, “Textbooks are definitely too expensive. I buy my books online through the bookstore because you don’t have to worry about getting the wrong book, like through Amazon.”

Barbara Farrell, the bookstore manager at Fairfield, believes that the answer to saving students money on textbooks is to help them sell the books back to the official campus store.

“We make a real issue out of buying back books from students,” Farrell said. “We paid to our students $419,000 in cash last year. That is frankly the largest thing that we can do.”

Farrell also explained the process of taking textbook orders from professors during the fall semester:

“In November we ask the professors for orders. The first thing we do is take that order and walk to the shelf and see if there are any books. If the professor wants 150 copies and we have 15, we go to the computer and start a want list for the book, so we hunt for 75 on the used-book market, leaving the rest of the space open for own students,” Farrell said.

“When exam time comes we advertise like crazy and hope that we get 60 books and for the balance we go to the publishers, who are really our partners and we can’t abandon them,” she said.

The problem arises, according to Farrell, when professors get their orders in late. Students are offered 50 percent of the original price of the book when they sell it back, as long as the book will be used again the next semester.

But if the professor has not submitted his or her order for the next semester or is changing the book, then the book is only worth the resale value, which is often much less.

“I don’t resell my books because I would rather give them to friends, and I don’t have time to sell them during exams,” said Kevin McGreen ’10.

Textbook prices are an issue that has plagued college campuses for years, and Connecticut is one of few states in the country looking to lower the cost of books by passing the Textbook Affordability Act in 2006, the first of now six states to pass the law.

The Act only forces publishers to inform faculty of textbook prices and revisions while they are pitching the books and is far from a permanent solution to the problem.

Jean Reynolds, a member of the Connecticut Board of Governors for Higher Education, headed the Connecticut Taskforce on the Cost of College Textbooks.

“We did a survey of our student population in Connecticut to see if they had any issues with textbooks and we found that they did indeed,” said Reynolds. “So the taskforce was mobilized.”

She said that the taskforce found that textbooks cost too much and that many professors were unaware of the costs of the books they were assigning.

Reynolds and the taskforce created nine recommendations of how to lower textbook costs, including telling professors prices and eliminating the bundling of books.

The Textbook Affordability Act, which was lobbied heavily by the Connecticut Student Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG), originally included legislation that would require textbooks to be offered unbundled, meaning without extra CDs or workbooks. Bundled books often cost between $30 and $60 more than individual textbooks.

According to Brandon Nadeau, a UConn senior and campaign coordinator for the UConn PIRG Affordable Textbooks campaign, costs remain high because of a monopoly on the industry.

“Five or six companies are in control of the market,” Nadeau said. “They can charge whatever prices they feel like and can gouge students and get away with it.

“We, as students, are the ones getting stabbed in the eye and we can fight it by asking for regulation of the market from the government, and we have done that with great success,” Nadeau said.

The ConnPIRG study on bundled books concluded that both faculty and students think that bundled books are useless and add worthless expense for students. Professors think that the extra material is superfluous and do not use it anyway.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of students polled said they were forced to buy bundled books, but only 10 percent said that they used the extras.

Nadeau said that ConnPIRG is still fighting to pass legislation requiring unbundled books to be pitched to professors.

The Textbook Affordability Act is a start, according to Reynolds and Nadeau, but there is still a long way to go.

Despite the law, textbook companies often do not follow through on their end.

“It is not easy to consider the price of books, because the publishers don’t tell you the price unless you ask for it,” Baumgartner said. “I usually choose the least expensive version that won’t fall apart in your hands.”

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