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ODU's Koch Discusses Textbook Industry on NPR Program

Old Dominion University President Emeritus and Board of Visitors Professor of Economics James V. Koch was featured recently on the National Public Radio program "Marketplace," discussing the textbook industry and the impact of high prices on students.

The program highlighted how students often try to buy used books, which publishers respond to by churning out new editions. As a result, students are now looking to the Internet, where some sites provide entire textbooks online for free.

Koch told "Marketplace" interviewer Katie Macpherson,"The textbook market is broken. There's little competition and students have no choice but to spend top dollar on required books."

Koch exhorted educators to advocate for students, saying, "You know, this market's not working to the benefit of the students."

Koch recently testified to the Congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance about his findings in a study of college textbook pricing. He was retained by the committee to complete a one-year study on the cost of college textbooks, the impact of costs on students and options to make textbooks more affordable. He noted that textbook prices rose at 6 percent per year from 1986 to 2004, even though the Consumer Price Index rose only about 3 percent annually over the same time period.

During his testimony before the congressional committee, Koch provided some price-reducing recommendations, including instituting book rental systems at universities, requiring publishers to unbundle textbook packages and requiring universities to provide all book lists on the Internet with an easy access link to used-book sellers. "Textbook costs can be reduced if institutions help students shop around," he said.

"Marketplace" is a radio program that focuses on business, the economy, and events that influence them. The show is produced and distributed by American Public Media, the broadcast arm of Minnesota Public Radio, in association with the University of Southern California.

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This article was posted on: September 9, 2008

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