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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Textbook disclosure bill passed

    PHOENIX – A bill aimed to garner more disclosure from textbook publishers passed the Arizona House Higher Education Committee yesterday, but not without an amendment that some say takes away from what the bill really aims to accomplish.

    HB 2230 would require textbook publishers to give faculty information on price and changes from previous editions of textbooks so faculty can make more informed decisions when choosing textbooks for students.

    The bill would also require publishers to offer unbundled supplemental materials such as workbooks and CDs, but an amendment to the bill changes the language so publishers only have to give out prices by request and don’t have to offer the bundles separately.

    About 30 students, representing all three Arizona universities, sat in on the committee meeting and some testified in support of the bill without the amendment.

    Michael Slugocki, a political science senior and vice chair of the Arizona Students’ Association, which helped draft the initial legislation, said the new bill is not nearly aggressive enough with the amendment.

    “”The bill is essentially meaningless without the price disclosure,”” he said.

    Slugocki said the bill now is basically a statement from the legislature to publishers that only says they don’t like their practices, but doesn’t do anything about it.

    “”It loses all power,”” he said.

    Marc Osborn, a lobbyist for textbook publisher Reed Elsevier, which primarily publishes medical textbooks, said legislation with language that says publishers only have to provide price and edition information by request has worked very well in California.

    “”It’s not just price, it’s previous editions, changes in the editions,”” he said.

    Osborn said sometimes publishers send out copies of textbooks to faculty well before book buying season just to facilitate interest, and having to send out extra information such as price and information on changes in editions would be somewhat “”onerous.””

    “”We do believe that some point in the sales cycle that some information should be provided,”” he said.

    Offering a textbook unbundled could also drive the price of a textbook up, because it would have to be sold as a special order, he added.

    “”If some faculty members didn’t want that product it wouldn’t be provided,”” he said.

    One committee member said he didn’t even think the legislature has a place dabbling in legislation about textbooks.

    “”I don’t feel like a statute is a way to solve this issue,”” said Rep. Doug Clark, R-Anthem.

    Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, said he knows from his experience as an instructor at Arizona State University that many editions are updated with minor changes, and that the system is unfair to students.

    “”It’s not a true market where the consumer – the student – has the free choice to choose their textbook,”” he said.

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