Colleges Save Students Cash by Forcing Them to Buy E-Textbooks
Schools are now testing programs that save money by opting for electronic texts over printed copies (as they're much cheaper to produce and distribute) and by leveraging the power of bulk purchasing to negotiate even lower costs. Rather than suggesting that students go to the bookstore to buy a text, administrators include the text's price in the cost of tuition as a "materials fee."
Mirta Martin, the dean of Virginia State's business school told the Chronicle that each of the textbooks required for the college's senior level accounting course costs at least $250. After hearing countless stories of students who were performing poorly because they could not afford the textbook, Martin started looking for alternatives. Flat World Knowlege, an e-textbook provider, offered free online access to texts. An offline electronic version would cost $25 per-student, or $30 for a print edition. But, by including the price of the materials in the cost, and thus guaranteeing every student would buy a copy, Virginia State convinced Flat World to drop the price to $20 per student. Flat World even added extras like a downloadable study guide, an audio book and an iPad version that would normally drive the price of the bundle up to $100.
Students will likely continue to resist the push towards digital texts. They may be lighter and cheaper, but they're harder to read while lying down in bed, put more strain on the eyes, and don't allow you to scribble notes in the margins. But, if administrators succeed in their goal of driving down textbook costs by 75- to 80-percent, we're sure very few students (your writer included) will complain.