Colleges team up with textbook publishers to rip off students


Public-private partnerships are a favorite of politicians -- what's better than people working together for the public good?

But a recent Wall Street Journalpiece (subscription required) exposed a disturbing trend: public colleges and textbook publishers teaming up to ripoff students. Here's how the scam -- and there's noting else to call it -- works: The University of Alabama requires freshman composition students to buy a writing textbook called "A Writer's Reference," by Diana Hacker.

But: not just any edition will do, they have to buy the special edition for the school for $59.35, when the regular edition could be had for half that price used. Worse still, the campus bookstore won't buy back or sell the special edition. The only difference is a special cover and a writing guide that's available free on the college's website.

What can college students do? Ignore the directions and purchase a regular used copy. What could possibly be so special about the college edition? In all probability, everything you need will be in the original book or in the professor's presentations and, if for some reason you actually do need something from the special edition, they'll have a copy of it at the library.