In an effort to address the rising cost of textbooks and course materials, the University will host an online book exchange and begin a push for professors to publish early listings of their required course textbooks this fall.
The book exchange will have features similar to websites like Half.com and Amazon.com, which feature listings of books and seller-set prices, and will likely be integrated into CTools.
Assistant Vice Provost Gretchen Weir said the book exchange, to be called uBook, will allow students to exchange books in person rather than wait for them to be shipped from online sellers.
Officials hope it will also encourage professors to list required textbooks earlier. Now, many professors release their reading lists to campus bookstores too late for students to be able to buy them anywhere else.
The University will remind professors of deadlines for publishing the lists, but professors won’t be required to post required texts online.
Weir, a member of the University’s Textbook Task Force – a committee made up of students, faculty, staff and bookstore owners – said the new programs will help students know whether their used textbooks will be in demand the following semester and keep them from feeling cheated by low buyback prices at bookstores.
Weir said local bookstores often offer low buyback prices partly because they can’t predict which books will be in demand the next semester.
“Book sellers currently don’t make money on used books,” she said. “They don’t know if the book is going to be used again.”
The result is a high-risk investment for most of the books a store buys back.
Weir said most local bookstore owners don’t think uBook will significantly affect their stores. She said they still prefer to buy their books in conventional stores.
Shaman Drum Bookshop owner Karl Pohrt declined comment for this story.
Some professors have already been trying to help students fight the battle against boosted book prices.
Statistics senior lecturer Brenda Gunderson, chair of the Textbook Task Force, said she helps accommodate students who use older textbook editions by giving them a list of equivalent page numbers in the newer editions. Gunderson said she keeps several copies of the textbook on reserve in the library and publishes her textbook list online months before each term starts.
But some professors said creating a deadline for renting texts could be prohibitive. English Prof. William Worthen said deciding which books to use for a class can be a lengthy process. He said he also often changes the syllabus at the last minute after discovering that certain books aren’t available.
“You don’t know they’re not in print until you order them,” he said.
Worthen, an author of several drama writing books, said publishers often resort to publishing new or updated editions of textbooks to bolster sales. As a result, students can’t sell their used books for as much.
Students said they were optimistic about the University’s efforts.
MSA President Mohammad Dar, a member of the Textbook Task Force, said uBook and the early textbook lists will give students more options.
He said the development of the book exchange shows attentiveness to student concerns about text book prices.
“Student voice was what propelled the conversation,” he said.
LSA senior Hannah Smith surveyed student interest in uBook and submitted the information to the Office of the Provost. Smith’s group found that most students were excited about the potential to buy and sell books locally – and, most importantly, at cheaper prices.
“The general consensus,” she said, “is, ‘Yeah, we’re always getting ripped off with textbook resell.’ “