A Creative Textbook Buyback Idea That Needs More Attention

It is quite apparent that the entire textbook publishing model is beginning to make some much-needed changes. The traditional textbook publishing model is adapting in an attempt to become more compatible with the current digital learning technologies available. This is truly a major “revolution” of sorts, and thus we can expect these adaptations to gradually appear more mainstream in schools and on University campuses around the world.

The problem that many are not only forecasting, but also currently witnessing unfold, is that these publishing model adaptations are simply taking too long to implement at the top tiers of the industry, and therefore the potential benefits for students are delayed or in some cases these adaptations are now actually diverting the potential benefits BACK to the textbook publishers, rather than directly benefiting the students. How is exactly could the latter be happening, you ask? Easy, the textbook companies are using new technologies to “bloat” out their textbook bundles with often completely unnecessary supplementary digital material “package upgrades” and so on. While many student, citizen, and government-backed organizations fight for free and cheaper access to learning materials, students are still currently struggling and are looking for processes to implement that will better their overall financial situations when it comes to buying and selling textbooks.

One such process for cutting textbook costs has launched at Washington State University, and could become EXTREMELY powerful if done correctly, in my opinion. The best part about this unique textbook buyback strategy is that it allows students to show their Universities that they are taking a firm stand against outrageous textbook prices as a collective and cohesive group. It allows students to let their instructors know that they are indeed suffering due to “poor” faculty decisions regarding required textbooks for their selected courses, in a professional and polite manner. The strategy is so simple that it carries a “bonus effect” with it as well. It can be easily replicated across all Universities throughout the globe and become a VIRAL movement if enough students feel the need to get involved. Something tells me the majority of college students would GLADLY participate in this strategy.

So what is this amazingly genius and simple buyback strategy all about? Basically, The Associated Students of Washington State University (the undergraduate student government at the University) got together with the intended goal of reaching out to their University faculty and encouraging them to order popular, widely-used textbooks and order them as early as possible. The primary intended consequence of this student “direct action” is that it would enable Washington State students to recieve more money back when they go to sell their textbooks at the end of each semester. To accomplish their communication goals for this process, the student organization produced an email “…that allows students to merely fill in the name of their professors and their own names. Students who email their professors about the ASWSU Textbook Buyback Campaign will be entered into a drawing to win money for spring semester textbooks.” Another important section of the e-mail “…encourages professors to not only submit orders for more widely used textbooks, but also to submit their orders early.”

So, by encouraging professors to use the most popular and common textbooks in their field, the hope is that students would see less requirements for custom editions, textbook package upgrades, textbook package bundles, bonus and supplemental materials, etc. If students do not have to purchase extremely unique or custom and often inevitably unnecessary textbook additions, chances are the campus bookstore will buy their textbooks back at the end of each semester for a fair price, as the consistent “need” for the popular and common textbook should remain roughly the same for some time. The cool thing regarding this creative textbook buyback strategy is that in a small but potentially impactful way, students are actually controlling an aspect of their local textbook market. Imagine the power students could have if they started implementing this strategy quickly on a national, and eventually a Global level.

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