MPIRG starts textbook affordability campaign

The rising cost of textbooks has brought stress to students, but the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group is making efforts to provide more affordable options. Using a pledge form completed Wednesday, MPIRG members will ask professors at the University of Minnesota to help decrease textbook costs. The pledge lays out a plan for professors to publish course packets and lecture notes online and to use existing editions of textbooks for as long as possible. It also asks professors to notify students when earlier editions of textbooks are acceptable and to avoid bundled packages if all pieces wonâÄôt be used. According to 2005 MPIRG data, the average student will spend over $900 on textbooks each year and new editions cost 45 percent more than used copies of the previous edition. MPIRG has begun talks with professors regarding the pledge, and will continue to promote the campaign throughout the semester. Ryan Kennedy , head of the campaign, said his goal is to have 100 signatures by the end of the semester. MPIRG will also put together a brochure informing students about stores, websites and rental programs where cheaper books can be found so students know their options for affordable textbooks, Kennedy said. Kennedy said preliminary talks with professors have garnered interest in the pledge to promote older textbook editions. Genetics and cell biology professor Stuart Goldstein said professors donâÄôt have a lot of say in deciding when to use a new edition, but that he would sign the pledge. âÄúTextbook publishers come out with a new edition about once in every three years,âÄù Goldstein said. âÄúWe kind of get forced into [using new editions], just because the publishers do that.âÄù Robert Crabb , University Bookstore director, said he thought asking professors to use older editions was a great idea. âÄúWeâÄôve asked faculty to let us know if the older edition is acceptable,âÄù he said. âÄúIf so, weâÄôll carry both the old edition and the new edition.âÄù Older editions can be harder to find, however, because they are no longer being produced. âÄúBut, if the professors will at least say that these are acceptable, students can go online to try to find them,âÄù Kennedy said. Goldstein noted another problem: the high cost of producing new books. Since new editions need extra review by publishers, they end up costing more once they get to the bookshelves, Goldstein said. In an attempt to lower prices, the Dinkydome âÄôs Student Bookstore started a book rental program this fall. âÄúThat was a huge success with a lot of students because that tremendously dropped the cost of the new book or used book that you are renting by at least 60 percent,âÄù General Manager Pradeep Denoronha said. Sophomore Vang Moua said he had heard about the rental program. âÄúI would be interested if I knew someone who actually tried it out and liked it,âÄù he said. A new law, put together by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. , will ask professors to publicize textbook prices when advertising their classes beginning in 2010. In a previous interview with the Daily, Durbin said the law could âÄúreally make a difference,âÄù and that students should push for action before 2010. Kennedy said he supports DurbinâÄôs plan, adding that it directly ties into MPIRGâÄôs goals. âÄúBooks [prices] are increasing more and more every year and this is something that we really need to tackle now before it gets out of control,âÄù Kennedy said.