Fixing the Expensive Textbook Market

Text book girl

College textbooks cost too much and something needs to be done about it, according to a report from the advocacy group U.S. PIRG.

The College Board estimates that the average student in this country spends around $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A single book can cost as much as $200.

Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82%. That is nearly three times the rate of inflation, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office.

The PIRG report, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market,” suggests that students who are already struggling to afford college may do things that undermine their education to deal with the rising costs of their books.

That conclusion is based on a survey of more than 2,000 students from more than 150 different campuses across the country conducted last fall.

• 65% said they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.
• Nearly half (48%) said the cost of books had an impact on how many or which classes they took.
• 94% of the students who had skipped buying a required book said they were concerned that doing this would hurt their grade in that course.

“Not only are students choosing not to purchase the materials they are assigned by their professor, but they are knowingly accepting the risk of a lower grade to avoid paying for the textbook,” the study concluded.

PIRG says publishers use “a set of tactics to drive prices skyward,” such as releasing new editions every three to four years regardless of changes in the subject material.

“They price these new editions quite high, which in turn dictates the price of used books and rental books,” said Ethan Senak, higher education associate at U.S. PIRG. “Even as they move into e-textbooks, publishers incorporate paywalls, expiration dates and printing restrictions that further continue the practices they’ve used to control the traditional market.”

David Anderson, executive director for higher education at the Association of American Publishers, says, “Digital textbooks are the wave of the future and publishers are adjusting to that in a way that is very affordable for students.”

Samantha Zwerling, student body president at the University of Maryland, College Park, sees the cost of textbooks having a negative impact on her classmates.

“Students might not be taking a course with the best professor or a course that they’d really like to take because the materials cost so much,” she said. “Textbooks are not only hurting their wallets, but also their grades and their academic decisions.”

Consumer advocates believe the solution is to expand the market for “open textbooks.” These books are written by faculty and peer-reviewed, just like traditional books, but they’re free online and to download. They’re typically available in print for between $20 and $40. Many high schools across the USA are using open text books now.

Irene Duranczyk, a University of Minnesota professor, uses an open textbook for her statistics course. She said the online material is high quality and can be customized to fit her teaching style. The traditional book is $180; the open source one is free.

“Students are very, very appreciative of being assigned a textbook that didn’t break the bank,” Duranczyk said.

Several major universities have invested in supporting and developing high-quality open textbooks for their students, but the percentage of the market is still minimal.

New open platforms that allow professors to create and publish custom textbooks like the GentleKing publishing solution have the potential to change education for the better.

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Branson’s top five tips for starting a successful business

I have started a few businesses during my career with various levels of success. Now after starting yet another company, GentleKing Education, I thought it was time to revisit Richard Branson’s tips for starting a successful business. I believe these tips are essential to at least getting some positive traction.                    branson2

1. Listen more than you talk

We have two ears and one mouth, using them in proportion is not a bad idea! To be a good leader you have to be a great listener. Brilliant ideas can spring from the most unlikely places, so you should always keep your ears open for some shrewd advice. This can mean following online comments as closely as board meeting notes, or asking the frontline staff for their opinions as often as the CEOs. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them.

2. Keep it simple

You have to do something radically different to stand out in business. But nobody ever said different has to be complex. There are thousands of simple business solutions to problems out there, just waiting to be solved by the next big thing in business. Maintain a focus upon innovation, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A simple change for the better is far more effective than five complicated changes for the worse.

3. Take pride in your work

Last week I enjoyed my favourite night of the year, the Virgin Stars of the Year Awards, where we celebrated some of those people who have gone the extra mile for us around the Virgin world. With so many different companies, nationalities and personalities represented under one roof, it was interesting to see what qualities they all have in common. One was pride in their work, and in the company they represent. Remember your staff are your biggest brand advocates, and focusing on helping them take pride will shine through in how they treat your customers.

4. Have fun, success will follow

If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong. If you feel like getting up in the morning to work on your business is a chore, then it’s time to try something else. If you are having a good time, there is a far greater chance a positive, innovative atmosphere will be nurtured and your business will fluorish. A smile and a joke can go a long way, so be quick to see the lighter side of life.

5. Rip it up and start again

If you are an entrepreneur and your first venture isn’t a success, welcome to the club! Every successful businessperson has experienced a few failures along the way – the important thing is how you learn from them. Don’t allow yourself to get disheartened by a setback or two, instead dust yourself off and work out what went wrong. Then you can find the positives, analyse where you can improve, rip it up and start again.

Kink Ador


These guys (and Gal) of Kink Ador are becoming hot. They are friends of mine from Nashville. Their sound is defined by its funky rock bass lines, dysfunctional guitar, and a drum groove that sits tight in the pocket.

The song, Animal, featured in this video, has become the their signature song. The trumpet and horn sounds accent the bands high energy, and musicality. The classic testosterone fueled guitar solo, swampy drum beats, and tight funky bass line originally made this song resonate with fans.

On this version of the song, Kink Ador teamed up with record producer Craig A. King ( Ludacris, Aaliyah, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, http://wp.craigaking.com/ ) to bring an even brighter and tighter energy to the song. Craig is fantastic.