New Textbook Bill Takes Effect this Month

Posted: July 6, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

Students will no longer have to wait until the beginning of a semester to find out which textbooks are required by their course instructors. House Bill (HB) 1726, which provides students with information about required textbooks so they can decide whether to make purchases at on-site bookstores or at off-campus locations, takes effect this month.

The bill prohibits state employees at public institutions from requesting or receiving any form of compensation or benefits for assigning a specific textbook, with the exception of instructors receiving copies of textbooks for review and royalties received from the instructor’s own work. It also requires governing bodies at all state colleges and universities to make a list of required textbooks available to students in a central location and in standard format on their web sites. Institutions with on-site bookstores are also required by the bill to post a list of required textbooks when instructors or academic departments place orders.

According to Jack Smith, general manager of the University Bookstore, which is operated by Barnes and Noble Booksellers, there are no immediate major plans to change the bookstore’s operations. However, Smith notes that the bookstore does plan to streamline and increase some of the options available to students.

used books
Used books line the shelves at the University Bookstore.
Photo by David Smith

“We must do our best to get more used books on the shelves,” he said. “Our goal for this fall is to have $1.5 million worth of used books [in stock and available]. We also plan to make online ordering of textbooks available this summer. Students will be able to pull up a list of books needed for a particular class.” This is something that Barnes and Noble has been working on for a while and is not a result of HB 1726, Smith added.

However, Smith said, the bill does have the potential to impact George Mason’s revenue. “The university receives a percentage of bookstore sales, and decreased sales would obviously mean less money would come back to the school.”

The bookstore’s online ordering system and the list of textbooks with their International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) were set to be up and running July 1.

In a memorandum to George Mason’s Board of Visitors (BOV), BOV Secretary William Page Johnson, II, wrote that HB 1726 is, “commendable…[It seeks to provide students with] all the information they need to shop for their required and assigned textbooks and allows the books to be purchased wherever they find the best deal.” However, Johnson also noted that this legislation does not factor in that textbook publishers often deliver newer versions or textbooks with different ISBNs.

“Any change, regardless of how minor, triggers the assignment of a new ISBN,” Johnson said. “The difference between ordering a textbook at the University Bookstore and an off-campus or online vendor is that the University Bookstore guarantees the latest version, even if the publisher changes after the order is submitted.”

The bill, which was originally proposed by the grassroots, student-led political action organization Virginia21, received sponsorship from Delegate Glenn Oder (R-Newport News) and passed 40-0 in the state Senate. After going through a series of modifications, HB 1726 was passed by both the House and Senate on March 7, and was signed into law by Gov. Mark Warner on March 22.

The University Bookstore plans to make the textbook-buying experience easier for students this fall.
Photo by David Smith

HB 1726 officially took effect July 1. However, since textbook orders for the fall 2005 semester have already been submitted, all of the bill’s requirements will not come into effect until the spring 2006 semester. The BOV has mandated that George Mason begin to “develop and implement appropriate procedures” for making textbook lists available to students on the university’s web site as soon as instructors or academic departments make such information available.

For more information on HB 1726 and a detailed timeline of its proposal, amendment, and passage, visit the Virginia General Assembly’s web site.

For more information on the George Mason University Bookstore, visit its web site.

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