With the beginning of each quarter comes the emptying of wallets. While some attribute this to the high cost of textbooks, the true culprits are course readers. In order to alleviate the financial burdens on students, Associated Students UCLA should examine the potential ways to save money on course readers and not just textbooks.
Currently, ASUCLA is one of the routes UCLA professors can take to publish their readers through its printing services, said Addison Huddy, last year’s general representative in the Undergraduate Students Association Council.
Unlike the market for textbooks, a dearth of competition exists in the market for course readers because there is only one vendor for each reader. As a result, these businesses are able to charge higher prices, leaving students with no other alternative but to buy from them.
To exacerbate matters further, there is no resale value to a course reader as there is with a textbook. Vendors like Amazon.com, the largest online retailer, are eager to slash the price of textbooks low enough to pique the interest of frugal students. Too bad the same cannot be said for the course reader.
To be fair, ASUCLA did wrestle with a proposal that sought to lower the cost of course readers.
Last year, Huddy pitched the idea to lower the cost by selling advertising space within the course reader.
Although they expressed interest, ASUCLA ultimately concluded that this idea would not be as cost-effective as lowering the overall cost of textbooks according to Karen Noh, the Special Project manager of ASUCLA.
Though ASUCLA scrapped the initiative, there is no reason why they could not feasibly carry out Huddy’s proposal.
ASUCLA needs to renew its confidence in the untapped advertising potential that is latent within the course reader. After all, every student who desires to get a good grade will peruse their course reader multiple times. If advertisements are inserted into these pages, advertisements may experience a surge in viewership as they never experienced.
Course readers have the rare opportunity to appeal to students when they are receptive to information, and this is something that ASUCLA should not dismiss so easily.
Noh explained that ASUCLA failed to move forward with Huddy’s proposal because it was not a cost-effective measure.
Noh roughly calculated that one advertisement, which costs a business one thousand dollars, would at most save students only a single dollar. This sum would only further dwindle once printing fees as well as licensing royalties were taken into account, she added.
But many businesses will surely recognize the prime advertising space in the course reader once they are clearly informed. However, a genuine discussion with local businesses was never achieved during ASUCLA’s first attempt to lower the cost of readers.
Other concerns that motivated ASUCLA to abandon the project included the uncertain approval they would receive from faculty as well as the potential commercialization of literature. Since professors are the ones to compile the articles for a course reader together, the decision will ultimately lie with them as to whether they approve of including advertisements in these teaching instruments.
Yet what professor would not want to lighten the burden on their students? According to Deborah Lee, the production manager of Copymat, professors do not receive any commissions from publishing a reader.
ASUCLA should continue to closely investigate how this could be a feasible solution rather than focusing on why it is not a feasible one. Asking the former question will facilitate the discovery of innovative untried solutions that may alleviate the already stressed wallets of students. In contrast, dwelling on how the proposal is not feasible will only reinforce the impediments of the project.
Hopefully, with a new approach, ASUCLA will help our wallets recover.