Readers React

A textbook case of gouging on college campuses

To the editor: No one quoted in the article mentioned the possibility of not changing textbooks every year or so for some classes. Why is it necessary to change an algebra text or have bookkeeping, ancient history or language textbooks updated every year? ("Cal State looks for ways to drive down cost of textbooks," Aug. 1)

The California State University and University of California systems should require professors to use the same textbooks for, say, 10 years. New professors should take over classes with the understanding that the same textbook used by the previous instructor will be retained.

For many classes, textbooks should be changed only rarely, and revisions should be described in detail to school officials. Using the same textbook for a long period of time would lower the costs for students.

Terry Kennedy, Gardena


To the editor: Part of the problem of textbook costs comes from changing technology. Page layouts that used to require a lot of expensive hand labor are now done easily with computer programs.

Textbooks were once just that: books with text. Today they are littered with graphic decor that does little or nothing for the content. Page sizes have increased greatly. Color photography requires coated paper, which is heavier, more expensive and hard on the eyes.

When I was in college in the 1960s, I spent no more than $80 a term on books. Going back in the 1990s, I paid up to five times that and needed wheeled luggage to haul the books. They were like bricks.

I have witnessed elementary school children staggering under the weight of book bags. This is abuse. Technology can be useful in making textbooks, but it should be applied with greater care.

Karen Carlson, Thousand Oaks


To the editor: The bookstore at Cal State Northridge forced my students to pay higher prices, serving neither students nor instructors but rather publishers and investors.

In fall 2012, I taught a sizable class; I was assigned to teach the same course for spring. I examined the new edition of the text ($180 new) and determined there was little change. I decided to use the same textbook (dated 2011) so the bookstore could buy the textbooks from the current students and sell the books, as used, to the next class.

My decision was overridden and my order was changed to the new edition. The bookstore refused to buy the textbooks back from students and sold only new editions.

Students in both classes were cheated.

Stephen Siemens, Monterey Park

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