California Senate passes digital textbook legislation

Kyusung Gong

Print textbooks will still be available for $20 while digital textbooks will be freely accessible under the new legislation.

Elizabeth Villafan, Contributing Writer

The California State Senate approved two bills on May 30 aimed at lowering textbook costs in order to make college more affordable for students.

The bills, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would allow students free access to digital textbooks for the top 50 college courses and print copies for $20 each. A California Open Source Digital Library would also be created to house the books.

According to Steinberg, his two bills are needed because on average a student will spend about $1,000 in textbooks per year.

“We can provide students in all three [college] systems with the highest quality textbooks at a fraction of today’s cost,” Steinberg said. “This is going to happen sooner or later, but as policy makers we have the ability to expedite this and to begin saving students and their families money in these most difficult times.”

Robert Herrera, student at Cal State Long Beach and former University Bookstore employee, said if this legislation were to pass, textbook sales would definitely decrease at the school’s bookstore.

“Of course students would rather get free books than to buy them,” Herrera said. “The bookstore would be losing money, but in this case, students need to look out for themselves and not the bookstore.”

According to Herrera, the bookstore would be losing money because they would not be getting reimbursed for the books that they already bought.

Long Beach City College student Richard Figueroa-Mejias said he thinks the legislation is a great idea and would take advantage of the digital textbook system because he spends $500 per semester on books.

“If my books were accessible [online] I would be able to do my work when needed and I could save my money for more important things, like rent,” said Figueroa-Mejias. “The cost of books is what keeps me from going [to school] full-time; I base my schedule if I can afford the books.”

The first measure, Senate Bill 1052, passed by a vote of 32-2. The bill will create a council with representatives from Cal State University, University of California, and California Community Colleges to decide which textbooks will be added to the digital library and who will oversee the library.

Senate Bill 1053, the second measure of the bill, will use the decisions from the council to create a digital library for the open-source materials.

According to Southern California Public Radio, the textbook industry is concerned about state government funding digital textbooks and potentially dictating to faculty that they must use the textbook materials chosen by the council.

If the legislation is passed, it will go into effect in January. It would cost about $25 million dollars to implement.

The bills have now been passed on to the State Assembly for a final vote.

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