"Someone highlighted the entire chapter... #usedtextbookproblems ----> Share yours for a chance to win $100!"
That's what college textbook publisher McGraw-Hill's twitter account has been blasting out to their followers the past few days.
Anyone even remotely exposed to higher education in the past decade is probably familiar with the skyrocketing cost of college textbooks. The numbers are staggering -- an 812 percent increase in the past few decades, increasing more than 3x the rate of inflation. The College Board suggests students budget more than $1200 for textbooks and supplies each year.
In many cases, the only way that students can afford the materials they need is by purchasing used or rented textbooks.
Here's the catch: the big textbook publishers that are charging $200 a book don't want students to buy used textbooks -- it means less profit for them. The publishers - McGraw-Hill included, have shown their willingness to do whatever it takes to undermine these cost-saving alternatives, and their latest tactic in no less obvious.
That's why, just a few days ago, McGraw-Hill launched a contest on Twitter using the hashtag #usedtextbookproblems - and offering twitter users a chance at $100 to poke fun at used textbooks.
It's a blatantly transparent attempt to put down and undermine the used textbook market, and - as someone who needed to purchase used textbooks myself - I can't let that go unanswered.
So, we asked students to take a second and tell McGraw-Hill that used textbooks are important - and they save students a lot of money.
Check out some of the awesome tweets that people have submitted already:
- @G0Casey: I don't know what to do with all of the money I'm saving by not getting ripped off #usedtextbookproblems #textbookbroke
- @MayBeeFox: Dear @mhhighered, know what's not funny? Charging more than200 for one new book. I'll take the used book, thanks. #usedtextbookproblems
- @ChloCanDo : McGraw-Hill, you can keep your100. I'd save that much buying ONE book used. #newtextbookproblems #usedtextbookproblems @MHEstudents
- @1over2pirc: #usedtextbookproblems My wallet can't hold all the money I save
- @iforitza : Sorry @mhhighered I can't play this #usedtextbookproblems game Had I not bought used textbooks, I'd be #textbookbroke
- @CliffroseA: i'm ever so flattered that they think we can't see through this complete farce #usedtextbookproblems
- @jesuishenessa: @mhhighered but what if I have no #usedtextbookproblems? my problem is publishers that overcharge & leave college kids #textbookbroke
Join the conversation yourself at #usedtextbookproblems.
To their credit, McGraw-Hill says that the contest was meant to highlight the fact that their digital books don't have the same drawbacks as used textbooks.
This is partly true - you won't get a digital textbook that has been doodled on - but you will face printing restrictions, device restrictions, and you won't be able to retain a copy of the book after your 3 month or 6 month purchase runs out. You definitely won't be able to sell it back.
All-in-all, most e-textbooks aren't much better of a deal than a used textbook.
If publishers are serious as they claim about reducing costs for students, they should offer students affordable options with user-friendly terms - instead launching a transparent PR stunt to undermine affordable options available today.
Header image courtesy of Snowmanradio, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlighter#/media/File:Highlighter_pen_-photocopied_text-9Mar2009.jpg