Adding to rising tuition costs, textbooks account for a large chunk of college student’s expenses. A bill that was proposed in Florida’s House of Representatives last week would slightly alleviate the financial burden by making textbooks exempt from sales taxes. In an environment where virtually all college-related costs are rising, this would be a welcome change.
The money saved by students may not appear much at first. The seven percent charged to each textbook sale amounts to $7 for each $100 spent. This may indicate that the bill would not be worth it for students. But over a student’s career it would add up. It’s almost a clichÃ©, but in such cases every little bit helps.
The bill would essentially constitute a price cut to students, but would not take care of a problem many educators are lamenting about. Textbook publishers only make profit on new books. When the same book is resold, be it at a local college bookstore or online, the publisher does not receive a cut of the money.
In order to make up for this publishers are keenly aware of how to time new editions of their books in order to maximize sales. Admittedly, a lot of publishers and writers of textbooks indeed have the best interest of the student at heart and simply want to make their product better.
Others are cranking out “new” editions of their books to cash in while large parts of the works remain unchanged. Since we live in a capitalist society there is little the government could do about such practices.
Most professors at USF are aware of the problem this constitutes: A book will easily cost a student an extra twice as much because a photo on page X has been changed in the “new” edition. Since the syllabus requires students to buy the “new” edition, this makes it largely impossible for students to get their hands on cheaper, used “older” edition of the book.
Educators should therefore be aware of the burden put on students by assigning unnecessary new editions simply because the publisher recommends it. Only if this occurs can it be assured that the new books are necessary and it is not simply a way to cash in at student’s expense.
In any case, the elimination of taxes on textbooks would immediately constitute savings to students. In that regard it would be very hard to argue against it and should be implemented as soon as possible.