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Textbook Publisher’s Twitter Contest Backfires

For Immediate Release

Late Tuesday afternoon, students around the country seized on McGraw-Hill’s twitter contest #usedtextbookproblems and instead used it as an opportunity to criticize the companies excessive prices.

On May 19th, McGraw-Hill launched a new contest using the hashtag #usedtextbookproblems – offering students the chance to win $100 for posting the greatest misfortune they’ve encountered with a used textbook.
“The big textbook publishers that are charging $200 a book don’t want students to buy used textbooks – it means less profit for them,” said Ethan Senack, Higher Education Advocate at the Student PIRGs, “This contest is a blatant attempt to undermine the used textbook market and – as someone who needed to purchase used textbooks myself – we can’t let that go unanswered.”

Reminiscent of JP Morgan’s failed customer outreach attempt #AskJPM last year, students around the country have responded, trolling McGraw-Hill with statements like:

  • ‏@CliffroseA: i'm ever so flattered that they think we can't see through this complete farce #usedtextbookproblems

In response, the publisher has claimed their contest is an attempt to demonstrate the benefits of their e-textbooks over print editions.

Unfortunately, most e-textbooks are just a continuation of the same bad practices present in the print market – they have significant use restrictions, can’t be sold back or retained after the semester, a fact not lost on students:

“If McGraw-Hill is as serious about saving students money as they say, they should offer students affordable options with user-friendly terms – instead launching a transparent PR stunt to undermine affordable options available today,” said Senack.

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Student PIRGs are independent statewide student organizations that work on issues like environmental protection, consumer protection, and hunger and homelessness.