WashPIRG starts affordable textbook campaign

WashPIRG kicked off its affordable textbooks campaign Monday morning with a press conference releasing the WashPIRG Foundation’s national survey results on textbook affordability.

Three speakers, ASUW Senate member Forrest Taylor, WashPIRG intern Charles Woldorff, and Chief Executive Officer of the University Book Store Louise Little, discussed the rising costs of textbooks and the methods being used to combat them.

“Students are paying too much for textbooks, plain and simple,” Woldorff said. “With modern technology there is absolutely no reason for textbooks to cost this much … the textbook market is broken and students are paying the price.”

The solution, Woldorff said, are open textbooks, which are textbooks published under an open copyright license, meaning anyone may use them. They could be made available to students and faculty for little to no cost.

WashPIRG believes that open textbooks will succeed in making textbooks more affordable where alternatives like rentals and e-textbooks have failed.

“Students could save $100 per course per semester if assigned an open textbook,” Woldorff said. “We’re calling on campus administrators, state legislators, and the federal government to give faculty resources they need to develop and use open textbooks in their classrooms.”

The survey, titled “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond To High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives,” was taken by more than 2,000 students at 150 campuses across the country, including the UW. The results found a majority of students have skipped buying a textbook because of cost, and approximately half chose classes based on the cost of the course’s textbooks.

Little said the U Book Store would be willing to offer newer, less expensive alternatives.

“If new formats are developed, we will look to offer those as well,” Little said. “We are happy to join the search to keep prices down and provide options. One of the things that we keep going back to is our effort to make textbooks affordable, and I’m sure on the outside students don’t always feel that way, but it really is our mission and our goal and one of our main areas of focus.”

Following the press conference, UW WashPIRG students invited UW students to fill out a sticky note with the amount they spent on textbooks this quarter and place it on a graph.

Throughout the afternoon, 91 students were surveyed on their expenses. In total, they spent $19,400, averaging at just over $200 per person.

One student, Christina Mulligan, placed hers over the $250 mark.

“It’s pretty painful — I could use some help,” she said. “I think that [open textbooks] would be great.”