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September 13, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-13

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 5A

How the 'U' can make textbook buying easier


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BY DAVID RUSSELL In July 2005,the Government
Accountability Office released a
the beginning of every report detailing the rising costs
University students load of textbook prices. The average
school supplies and head price textbooks has gone up 186
ir local textbook stores to percent over the last 20 years.
he books they need. The The report didn't reveal much
trip is the most shock- beyond what students already
s students learn that the know - that prices have been
for one class can easily driven by the CDs and other
core than their shiny new supplemental materials that the
lano. textbook companies use to bulk
ents and their parents up their books. Publishers have
ntinually perplexed by claimed that instructors demand
ing cost of textbooks. these features, which are needed
days, the cost of every- to keep pace with technological
associated with the aca- advances. Most students know,
University experience however, that CDs typically
the rise at rates faster do nothing more than adding
flation. Tuition has risen a smidge of extra weight to the
e of declining appropria- book and are often left out of
om the state government instructors' course plans.
e rising costs of the ben- The GAO report also found
e University gives to its that frequent revisions have
ees. The cost of room kept the prices of books high
ard has gone up because and that books used for intro-
her energy prices. Why ductory courses are the most
tbooks so expensive, and frequently revised. Courses like
an instructors and the General Chemistry and Math
sity do about it? 115 tend to attract large num-

bers of freshmen, who are oftet
unaware of how to get the bes
price for their books. Publisher
contend that instructors wan
the most up-to-date edition
for books, and even cite a pol
of instructors where 80 percen
of the respondents replied tha
they wanted information in thei
textbooks to be as current a
possible (although that poll wa
commissioned by the Ameri
can Association of Publishers)
But do students and professor;
really need a new edition every
two years just because an autho
added a few more exercises tc
Chapter 12? Also, the classe
where textbooks are being
revised most are the introduc
tory classes, which typically see
little change in course conten
from year to year.
So what can be done tc
make this process more studen
Professors should post a lis
of textbooks for their class or
the online course guide so tha
students know what material
to the public. Throug
out our conversation, the
expressed genuine concei
for student interests an
seemed generally willin
to cooperate with the neec
of their customers.
McNamara is an L
junior and a member of h
* Daily's editorial boa

n to buy and how much they will
t have to spend before signing up
s for a class. Thankfully, some
t professors and even entire
s departments have already
1 begun doing this. The mathI
t department and the economics
t department should be lauded;
r for making a textbook list for
s all their classes available on
s their respective websites, and it
- can only be hoped that the stu-1
dents have taken full advantagel
s of the information there.
y Unfortunately, with only
r a few exceptions, professorsI
o in popular departments like
s history, political science and
g psychology have been negli-
- gent in posting reading lists ini
e advance.
t Last year, then-LSA Student
Government President Andrew
o Yahkind tried to get the Col-
t lege of Literature, Science, and
the Arts to make instructors
t post their book lists online and
n more readily
t available to v
s students. Q' i

He was unable to get the Col-
lege to do that, and whether
current president LSA-SG
President Joanna Slott will
make any progress on the issue
remains to be seen.
Not much has changed for
students buying textbooks
since last year. More profes-
sors and departments are mak-
ing the effort to help students
by making them aware of the
books they need to buy, but
most classes continue to leave
students in the dark. Yes, text-
book publishers want to make
money, and that's fine. That
just means that it's up to wise
professors and administra-
tors here at the University to
help students and their parents
alleviate one part of the ever-
increasing cost of a college
Russell is an LSA junior and
associate editorial page editor.

Can they kick you out

Upon receiving a book list
from one of her professors,
a friend of mine went to
Shaman Drum Bookshop
to copy down the titles and
prices of the textbooks she
would need for the upcom-
ing semester. While in the
process of gathering this

information, an employee
approached my friend and
asked her to leave, warn-
ing that she was setting a
bad example for the rest of
the customers and that Sha-
man Drum does not allow
students to write down text-
book information.
After hearing several
students recount similar

experiences, I sat down with
the store managers, Julia
Cowlishaw and Stephen
Smith, as well as the owner,
Karl Pohrt. They explained
that there is no specific store
policy that prevents students
from copying information
such as titles prices, and
ISBN codes.
They also highlighted the

store's website as, which
provides the prices of new
books for individual classes
and allows students to preor-
der them online, thus avoid-
ing the long lines during the
first week of classes.
They also briefly dis-
cussed possible website
updates that would supply
more textbook information

Michigan Union Bookstore:
Located in the basement of the
Michigan Union, the current
store is owned by Barnes and
Noble. The bookstore's history
dates back to 1969,whenthe Uni-
versity Board of Regents voted
to allow a student-run bookstore
in the Union. The decision was
a victory for students, who had
waged a long campaign for a
bookstore of their own - which
culminated in a takeover of the
LSA Building led by Students
for a Democratic Society. That

store lasted until the 1980s,
when its decision to move off
campus to avoid contributing
to Union renovations in 1979
proved unsuccessful.
* Shaman Drum: This tiny book-
store with the long staircase to
the textbook floor primarily sells
books for humanities and social
science classes. It was founded 16
years ago by Karl Pohrt, who still
owns the store today. Many pro-
fessors order their books only at
Shaman Drum.

*Ulrich's and MichiganBook
and Supply: These stores
are owned by the Nebraska
Book Company. Today, the
privately owned company
operates 250 college book-
stores across the country,
with 13 locations in Michi-
gan, including three stores
at Michigan State University
and three stores at Eastern
Michigan University. Dur-
ing the last fiscal year, NBC
made a record gross profit of
just over $169 million.

As college
have our own
textbooks. Min
investment in o
chemistry - ri
not to go to me
of mine still co
about the $65 lab
We know, firsth
textbook indust
money - the
and study guide
unnecessary nev
the used-book
wrap that keep
our books if we
drop the course,
boring the book
There might
versity can do a
of the publishin
howeverone ea
the University
the burden of te
make sure stude
they'll need wel
While camp
to have a vir
textbook sales,
students cheape
books to the i
that publishers s
tion of the cost t
tively rich Ame
Buying textb
seem like yet
ket triumph in
world. But here
doesn't work as
eyed Ayn Rand
You see, there'
market becausi
mation -no o
damn books to
It's a pretty o
students have
Former Michig
bly President H

A simple change
OPHER ZBROZEK posting textbook lists on the College however, that it would be feasible to
of Literature, Science, and the Arts implement and enforce any require-
students, we all course guide a goal during his term ment that LSA professors tell their
horror stories about five years ago. (Incidentally, he won students what books they will need.
ie involves a $250 office by walking around campus "It would be a difficult thing to actu-
one term of organic wearing a sandwich board and talk- ally require," Megginson said, add-
ght before I decided ing to students for a year before the ing that faculty often decide what
ed school. A friend election, I kid you not. MSA presi- books to use at the last minute. "This
implains, years later, dential hopefuls, take note.) is a very strong faculty-governance
b book he used twice. Despite his efforts, only 20 per- school, and generally requirements
and, all the tricks the cent of LSA courses then offered that are imposed on faculty have
ry uses to grab our listed textbook information by the to be imposed by the faculty them-
bundled CD-ROMs end of his term. While there certain- selves, not by the administration"
s we don't need, the ly are courses whose professors are The undergraduate chairs of individ-
w editions that kill off thoughtful enough to let prospective ual LSA departments, Megginson
sarket and the shrink students know which books they will said, might be better able to get their
s us from returning need, I doubt from my experiences faculty to list textbooks online.
have the temerity to that the overall fraction of courses Yahkind hopes to still make
after seeing just how providing textbook information has some progress, saying that LSA-
actually is. gone up terribly much since. SG now plans to talk to individual
not be much the Uni- I asked LSA Student Government departments about making syllabi
bout the broader sins President Andrew Yahkind if LSA- available earlier online. He suspects,
ig industry. There is, SG was doing anything about text- though, that the LSA administra-
sy and obvious move book prices. He's well aware of the tion could require professors to list
could make to lessen problem: "People don't talk about it;" syllabi earlier. "I still believe that,
xtbooks on students: he says, "but not everyone buys text- if the faculty and if the administra-
nts know what books books for their courses." That alone tion wanted it enough, it could be
1 before classes start. ought to give pause to professors required;' he said.
us bookstores used convinced that this year's latest-and- That seems right to me. It doesn't
tual monopoly over greatest new edition - available do much good to get a softcover
the Internet offers shrink-wrapped but not used, of version online for a third of the cost
r options, from used course - really provides the best if the book doesn't show up until
nternational editions education. a month into the term. Requir-
sell overseas at a frac- Yahkind spoke about LSA-SG's ing that professors actually tell us
hey charge compara- proposal this fall that would require which books we will need isn't
rican kids. professors to post syllabi online two some grave imposition, regardless
books online might weeks before classes start, in order to of the bureaucratic barriers. Such a
another free mar- make sure students know what cours- simple change that would save stu-
the post-Cold War es they were getting into and had dents money each semester is just
as always, capitalism time to buy their books online. The the sort of policy that the faculty
perfectly as a starry- administration's reaction? "Unfortu- and administration should support
devotee might think. nately, the response I've gotten from if they're concerned about their stu-
s a distortion in the the administration hasn't been too dents. We're the ones draining our
e of imperfect infor- enthusiastic about setting any sort of families' finances and going into
ne will tell us which deadline'" Yahkind said. debt ourselves to pay our profes-
buy. The LSA administration, indeed, sors' six-figure salaries, after all.

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, w.Y
X54 k
l .

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sbvious problem, and
worked on it before.
gan Student Assem-
ideki Tsutsumi made

is not enthusiastic. LSA Associate
Dean Robert Megginson says he is
concerned about the prices that stu-
dents pay for textbooks. He denies,

This column originally ran in the
Daily on January 23, 2006. Zbrozek
can be reached at zbro@umich.edu.

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