A closer look at the textbook market
The article, "Web sites assist with soaring textbook costs" that appeared in the Feb. 9 issue did not accurately represent the realities of today's textbook market. Nor did it make clear that textbook publishers' primary focus is on meeting the educational needs of students while holding down the cost of course materials.
Publishers strongly support price and product transparency. They already provide their materials either a la carte or as a bundle. They also provide prices and ISBN numbers directly to instructors so that information is available 24/7 online.
Instructors want their students to succeed by having the latest information and the most up-to-date materials. According to a 2005 Zogby International study, 80 percent of the surveyed faculty said it is important for textbook materials to be as current as possible. Publishers' revision cycles have been steady for the last 10 years, averaging 3.9 years for the most popular editions, enabling a single text to be resold as many as 16 or more times in its lifespan, according to an August 2008 study by the California state auditor. If faculties' course material decisions are driven not by educational value but only by their ability to be resold, then our higher education system will fail our students.
Publishers understand that college costs are a concern and now offer more choices than ever before. Key alternatives to traditional textbooks, for example, include e-textbooks provided through CourseSmart, a site developed by publishers to provide thousands of books for download in a common format at about half the price of the textbook, custom textbooks that contain only the materials used in a class, low-cost editions and books online by the chapter.
Publishers strive at all times to meet market demand and provide their customers with a variety of suitable choices. They will continue their efforts to provide students with the best educational materials in the world in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Katie Test is the assistant director for higher education with the Association of American Publishers.