Publishers, students look for book options
In the face of growing concern over the high cost of textbooks, publishers are suggesting professors customize their textbooks, which could result in lower costs as technology allows for decreased printing costs.
Students will gather on campus today to protest the rising cost of textbooks as part of a nationwide petition called Textbook Rebellion to make textbooks more affordable.
Custom textbooks allow a professor to select chapters from various books, add customized links and include personal notes in a textbook tailored specifically for his or her class.
âHow many times have you taken a class and you only use one chapter [of the book]?â said Raymond McDermott, senior manager of course materials at USCâs Pertusati Bookstore. âBy doing customs, professors can do a custom version that only has certain chapters and can add instructive notes.â
Publishers try to print several thousand copies of custom textbooks, and as professors try to do smaller prints, the cost per page increases.
Equipment has improved recently, however, and now publishers are able to keep the cost relatively low on mid-size prints, McDermott said.
Custom textbooks have been available to professors for about a decade, but they are becoming popular now because of a publisherâs ability to print at lower costs.
âPublishers are seeing their sales decrease because students are buying used books, so instead of assigning the generic textbook, they have to customize to USC,â McDermott said. âStudents therefore have to buy their textbooks here.â
The cost of custom textbooks varies depending on how much a professor decides to revise or select from original textbooks. Sometimes it might be half of the original price; other times it might be an 8 percent reduction in price, McDermott said.
Though McDermott said custom textbooks are a better financial deal for students, students are usually unable to purchase used custom textbooks online
The problem with purchasing textbooks from other storesâ websites, McDermott said, is that if a professor has a custom textbook, students will be getting the additional information and supplies that come with the bundle.
âAlthough I understand the purpose of custom bundles, textbooks at the bookstore are always overpriced, so we end up paying more than we would pay from other, more affordable suppliers,â said Nikola Vavic, an undeclared sophomore.
The majority of USC professors who use custom textbooks teach general education courses, andÂ the bookstore has about 25 different G.E. classes that customize books.
Typically large classes use custom textbooks because of printing costs, McDermott said.
âThe economics of doing smaller print runs does not make it very feasible unless itâs a class of, say 300 students,â McDermott said. âThe most inexpensive way to print books is on a huge press.â
Though some students said they worry the price of these custom bundles will raise their overall spending on textbooks, others understand the necessity.
âI think theyâre a really good way for professors to specify what they expect in the class, and students donât feel so overwhelmed when they get a 500-page book and think they have to read it all,â said Connor Virjee, an undeclared sophomore.