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The 20 Million Minds Foundation (20MM) and SlugBooks.com have announced their partnership making course-level bookstore-to-online price comparisons mainstream with real-time pricing available on the non-profit’s website 20MM.org . The real-time pricing product moves significantly further than current efforts aimed at meeting recent federal requirements seeking to curb the escalating cost of college textbooks.
In 2008, Congress passed the HEOA— a groundbreaking federal law designed to tackle the rapidly rising cost of textbooks— directing colleges nationwide by requiring disclosure of college textbook costs for students during the registration process on their websites.
Most colleges are complying with Federal law by disclosing the new and used textbook costs offered at their own college bookstores –where inflated prices are discouraging students to continue their education and are forcing many to pick their courses by textbook cost and not necessary benefit toward their academic goals.
HEOA compliance technically discloses enough information for significant savings to occur, but for most students the ISBN and price information by itself is not actionable, so they continue to pay higher prices than necessary. 20MM has partnered with SlugBooks given their product is independent from main stakeholders hurting affordability in this space, including publishers and the bookstore.
Students are typically directed by their institutions to go to the campus bookstore in most cases, despite affordable online options. The Foundation’s initial beta price transparency initiative allows students to look through college courses when shopping for textbooks and compare prices between the college bookstore and online alternatives.
Dean Florez, President of 20MM pointed to student frustrations given the lack of transparency in college textbook pricing saying “College bookstores are complying with federal requirements when it comes to servicing students – and most allow students several options between purchasing from the bookstore new, used, rental or even digitally – but each of those purchasing options incorporates different economics.
These bookstore-provided options are rarely ever compared apples-to-apples with the prices of reputable online alternatives or free open source offerings. The 20MM textbook tool aims to bridge this gap, and exposes courses where savings are significant.”
David Miller, CEO of SlugBooks pointed out that 20MM and SlugBooks currently plan to expand the school offering to over 1,000 higher education campuses in time for the Fall term beginning later this year. “Between various online marketplaces and new OER materials, course materials are now more affordable than they ever have been.
The only problem is that students and professors both, in large part, are unaware how easy it is to save money online. Instructors will be able to use this tool to search for various classes at schools and get ideas for which books their peers are using, along with the various price points of those books at college bookstores to make sure students can purchase these adoptions at a fair price.”
“Upon its release, the 20MM Textbook Tool is already demonstrating that students are not being served well by our bookstores, especially at the community college level,” said Florez.
“In fact, we are already exposing predatory pricing schemes that publisher’s use, which include loose leaf, packaged and customized textbooks, for which there is no secondary marketplace online.”
“The product already provides valuable adoption insights at both the course and textbook level – professors can either browse courses at specific schools to see what books are being used, or they can search for books by ISBN/Title and see all of the schools and courses in our database that are using that same edition.
A lack of online marketplace availability for a specific ISBN can be a red flag that a given textbook is not an affordable option and alternatives should be considered. This tool gives professors a much needed price-check to truly control how their textbook adoption choices will affect students,” said Miller.
20MM and SlugBooks plan on building out the product offering to also double as an early adoption discovery tool for professors who will be able to compare traditional hardcopy textbooks, rentals, e-textbooks and growing open educational resource (OER) textbooks in a one-click comparison.
Florez went further and pointed out that at full buildout, 20MM plans to index over 15 million textbooks based on 10 years of adoption that will provide faculty a trusted roadmap and a easy one-click “kayak experience” that will provide adoption information, textbook ratings, and side-by-side comparisons among peers on campuses throughout the nation.