Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More on Minnesota's textbook bill

DJ Danielson, from I Don't Hate America, had a great post recently about textbook issues in Minnesota.

Local media outlets have picked up the coverage, and the textbook industry has hit back.

I remember last year when I lobbied Dean Urdahl on the textbook bill and got him to author the bill in the House. The day after he dropped the bill "in the hopper" he had textbook lobbyists at his door.

It was rather comical actually. At that time, Rory was his Legislative Assistant. We used to talk to him quite a bit to get an idea of what was going on. He told us how swamped he had gotten after that bill got dropped.

I testified before both the House and the Senate on these bills and talked about the importance of what these bills signified.

The textbook company lobbyists scurried about the capitol like rats.
Moreover, Tennessen argued the bill treads on the First Amendment and the notion
of academic freedom.

We completely respect our faculty's rights to academic freedom. We, students and higher education advocates, believe the textbook industry is price gouging our students.
Student leaders charged that textbooks are expensive with new additions rolling
off the presses at a pace set by a lust for profit rather than knowledge.“How
much has basic calculus changed in the past three, five or ten years,” asked
Rick Howden, vice-chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association.

Exactly a point I made last year. How many times has basic math changed in the past decade to necessitate a 5th edition to a Math book?

How many times has Shakespeare changed it the past 50 years to necessitate 14 editions?

I used these textbooks in my testimony.

We understand that areas like computer science and other technological areas change quickly, and thus need new textbooks.
Students, besides perceived high prices and needless new editions, also
complained of bundling — packaging of academic materials together.Scott Formo,
Minnesota State College Student Association president, held aloft a bundled
chemistry textbook at the press conference costing about $133.

But the textbook industry also uses bait and switch tactics on both students and faculty alike. One educator I spoke to at Southwest Minnesota State, last year, told me a story of how he ordered a book by a specific ISBN, ensuring that his students recieved a textbook without a workbook and CD-Rom.

Unknown to him, the industry switched his order and his students paid nearly twice as much for their textbooks. The company sales rep denied any sort of switch, but the professor was adamant about his conscious effort to ensure students were paying fair prices for books they would use. He did not use the workbook or CD-Rom for his class.
Bob Tennessen, a textbook publishing industry lobbyist, criticized the legislation on a number of levels.

Of course he did, his company is gouging students and he has to defend the industry.

What ever happened to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education task force on this issue? Last year when we offered our bill on this issue, I expressed a deep concern that the textbook industry would be able to dominate the discussion. Furthermore, Governor Pawlenty wanted to name the students to this task force, something the student associations fiercely fought.

Keep the pressure on guys! We have the textbook industry coming out swinging, which means were doing something right.

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