The attempt to contain MnSCU textbook costs

As you can tell from my previous post, the Minnesota state textbook world is a little wild right now.

And unless you’re a wheeling, dealing entrepreneurial type, if you’re a student it’s costing you a ton.

In a packed forum here at a student leadership conference, students peppered Todd Digby, MnSCU’s director of libraries — and, secondarily, the go-to man for textbook issues — with questions about where the textbook market is going. And they wanted to know how MnSCU could help them keep the price of books down.

Listening to them, I got the following impressions:

  • Students don’t know where to look for help.
  • They don’t understand how the textbook market works and why costs are so high
  • They don’t know what money-saving options are available on campus
  • Their campus bookstores aren’t too familiar with the options, either.

In short, I have the picture that the bookstores on the dozens of campuses have their own system, don’t really talk much amongst each other and don’t communicate well with their student bodies.

Digby gave them a sympathetic ear and showed them a number of pilot projects and ideas — such as textbook swapping, and reserved texts in libraries for checkout — that some campuses were carrying out. (I’m hoping to detail these at a later date.)

It sounds like he has taken on the role of trying to corral a textbook system with no centralization.

He called on students to talk to their bookstore owners to participate in various programs to help lower prices.

They need to talk to professors, too — who sound like the most oblivious of the bunch.

How so?

Digby told the audience:

“Some don’t even know how much their textbook is costing.”

  • Anonymous

    E-textbooks are the answer.

    The problem is the viewer to use. iPad or the new Kindle? I am working on a post about this, that will appear in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I do believe that in the long run e-textbooks will save students a lot of money…

    Right now the iPad is too expensive and the Kindle can’t do color. This problem will be solved soon I am sure.

    Bill Gleason, U of M faculty and alum.