Gov. Schwarzenegger Terminates California College Textbook Affordability Act

For Immediate Release

SACRAMENTO (October 15, 2007) – Today Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 832, which would have established a strong set of laws to increase textbook price transparency and limit the worst publishing industry practices.

Statement by Student PIRGs’ Textbooks Advocate Nicole Allen:

“We are deeply disappointed with Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto of SB 832. While we are pleased that the Governor acknowledged the importance of lower textbook prices, we are troubled by the reasons he gave for his veto.

In his veto message, the Governor said that SB 832 ‘fails to recognize that the affordability of textbooks is a shared responsibility among publishers, college bookstores, and faculty members.’

Unfortunately, it appears that the Governor fails to recognize the root cause of the problem at hand.

It has been clearly documented many times over that the textbook market is a broken market. The person who orders the book (faculty) is not the same person who buys the book (students). Therefore, the cost of a textbook is not the primary factor during the purchasing process. Publishers, cynically aware of the immense market power this gives them, respond by withholding the price of textbooks. As has now been clearly documented by a rigorous study by the Student PIRGs, 77% of faculty report that publishers rarely or never report the price of a book during sales interactions.

When price is not on the table during the time of sale, it is inevitable that the more expensive product will prevail. Therefore, the only way to correct this market imbalance is to inject price into the sales conversation – at the time of sale. SB 832 sought to correct this imbalance in the market by requiring publishers to disclose the price of a book to professors up front. This would simply require publishers to do what every other industry already must do.

In contrast, AB 1548 does nothing to correct the market imbalance. Anyone who understands the market dynamics explained above knows that simply requiring publishers to disclose the price when asked rather than at the time of the sales conversation is too little too late, and has no ability to correct the market. Similarly, the other provisions of AB 1548 are irrelevant to the problem, as bookstores have no role in the selection of textbooks.

This is why the the California Teachers Association, the University of California Student Association, and the Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges urged the Governor to sign SB 832. By not doing so, the Governor failed to heed the research and recommendations of the academic community and missed a simple and important opportunity to lower textbook prices. We hope that over time, the Governor rethinks his position and reconsiders similar efforts in the future.”

To download the report cited in this statement:

For Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto message:

About the Student PIRGs

The Student Public Interest Research Groups is a national network of non-profit, non-partisan student advocacy groups that work on public interest issues pertaining to the environment, consumer protection and government reform.