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NACS statement in response to Open 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks
Following a preliminary analysis of the Student Public Interest Research Groups’ (Student PIRGs) latest report, ‘Open 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks’, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) found a number of inaccuracies, and misleading statements and information.
Overall Course Material Options and Pricing Unlike the assertions put forth in this report, college stores provide students with a number of low-cost options for acquiring course materials. In addition to offering alternative pricing and format options in-store, many college stores offer price comparisons that allows students to shop for the best price or take advantage of price match guarantees with local and online sellers, including Amazon.
The depiction of college stores in regards to course material pricing and availability, as offered in ‘Open 101’, is simply inaccurate.
For example, the attached pricing comparison by PIRG of a textbook sold through Southwest Oregon Community College uses selective information – the cost of a new textbook at the campus store compared with the cost of a used textbook on Amazon. PIRG uses such comparisons to suggest that students shopping at the campus store pay full price. In reality, the Southwest Oregon Community College Bookstore offers students more pricing options than Amazon by not only searching Amazon’s sellers, but also eBay, Abe Books, Valore Books and many others.
The Bookstore also offers dramatically lower-cost alternatives, including renting used, that Amazon does not offer for this title. Ultimately, the campus store offers identical or cheaper prices than Amazon, yet PIRG’s selective presentation of information suggests otherwise. Equally troubling is the Student PIRGs’ price savings calculation, which is based on comparing the newest, most expensive options to OER options. This calculation, and its $1.5 billion figure, is irresponsible and overstated. It assumes that all students are currently paying the highest price possible, when in reality many students are choosing rental, digital, and used books to reduce their overall costs.
Access Codes Similarly inaccurate conclusions can be found in the price comparison of bundles with access codes to textbooks alone. In multiple subject areas, the report includes textbooks that are only available in print, or Amazon costs that only include parts of a bundle. Both of which distort the averages and lead to highly questionable results.
The report also states that access codes are typically only available at the campus bookstore, and insinuates a relationship between campus stores and publishers to restrict the market and raise prices. However, faculty, not bookstores, select and assign course materials. Publishers determine how those materials are made available, either directly to students and/or through retail, and at what costs.
As has been reported previouslyagency pricing, a number of major publishers have moved to a strategy of marketing directly to students and are establishing , where they, not retailers, set the price and terms to the consumer regardless of purchase source.
Additionally, the report leverages that many textbooks and access codes must be purchased in a bundle. As of 2008, when the Higher Education Opportunity Act was passed by Congress, publishers legally must (with some exceptions) provide all items in textbook bundles for sale separately. The Student PIRGs have this information available (with some exceptions) provide all items in textbook bundles for sale separately. The Student PIRGs have this information available (with some exceptions) provide all items in textbook bundles for sale separately. The Student PIRGs have this information available (with some exceptions) provide all items in textbook bundles for sale separately. The Student PIRGs have this information available (with some exceptions) provide all items in textbook bundles for sale separately. The Student PIRGs have this information available