Free Textbooks?

In the past decade, the cost of college textbooks has risen by 82%. On average, students spend about $1,200 on textbooks each year. Now paper doesn’t cost that much, and writers aren’t paid that well, so the government is doing something to fix this. Currently, a bill is going through Congress to help solve the problem of rising textbook costs. The Affordable College Textbook Act, as it’s known as, aims to do just that.

The relationship between students textbook publishers is a troubling one. To save on money, many students resell their textbooks so that they may be able to get some of their money back and allow other students to purchase them at a more affordable price. This creates a problem for publishers since they don’t make any money on the sale of used books. To combat against this, they publish newer editions every year, rendering old ones obsolete. Not only that, but since the choice of textbooks are left up entirely to the professors, publishers set the price however high the want. Since publishers aren’t required to disclose prices, professors must blindly  and the students will still have no other choice but go with whatever their professor decides to pick.

Even the relatively low cost of tuition at community colleges doesn’t quite alleviate the financial burden that the purchasing of textbooks create. Reportedly, 70% of students have admitted to opting out of purchasing textbooks because of their high price point, and most of which know that doing so will likely mean that they will end up doing worse in their courses because of it. ACTA (as I’m calling it) serves to create an “open” licensing of textbooks to help subsidize their hefty price. In other words, the government will buy your textbooks for you (or at least pay  for a sizable chunk of it).

But will ACTA work? It’s debatable whether or not this is an effective use of taxpayer money or if it would be better to adjust the copyright laws instead, forcing publishers to fully disclose textbooks price and give control back to the free market. It’s a simple solution to a long running problem. The possibility of getting free textbooks doesn’t sound too bad either, but it may also mean that we’ll be paying more and more taxes as time goes on. And if your conspiracy theorist, you could also argue that this piece of legislation will give the government more control, allowing them to dictate the contents of the textbooks being published, which may not seem so far fetched if you’ve at all been keeping up with the news on Obamacare and the Common Core.