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.


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