Senate Source

June 2009


A Survey of Textbook Related Legislation


The California legislature believes the problem of rising textbook prices can be solved in part through legislation. Several past and recently introduced bills ask UC faculty to consider cost in assigning textbooks, to disclose how new textbook editions differ from previous versions, and to work closely with publishers and university bookstores to reduce textbook costs. The Academic Senate encourages faculty to stay informed about legislation that may affect them.


Recent Legislation and the Bureau of State Audits Textbook Audit

Assembly Bill (AB) 2477 (Liu-2004) asked the UC Academic Senate to encourage faculty to consider the least costly practices in assigning textbooks; disclose to students how new editions of textbooks are different from previous editions; disclose the cost to students for textbooks selected (see November 2004 edition of The Senate Source); work closely with publishers and college and university bookstores to reduce textbook costs; and review procedures for faculty to place textbook orders with college and university bookstores. AB 2477 also urged publishers to reduce textbook prices and directed the Bureau of State Audits to audit the public higher education segments’ management of textbook sales.


AB 1548 (Solorio-2008) encourages faculty or departments responsible for selecting textbooks for courses to consider cost when adopting textbooks beginning with textbooks published on or after January 1, 2010. The law requires publishers to print on new editions of textbook covers the copyright date of the previous edition and a summary of how the content differs from the prior edition. The law also requires publishers to respond to requests from adopters for: 1) a list of available products that are relevant to the requester’s needs; 2) the price of a new textbook available from the publisher; 3) copyright dates of any prior edition of a textbook; and 4) a list of substantial ways in which the content of the current edition published on or after January 1, 2010, differs from that of any previous editions. In addition, AB 1548 requires that each campus bookstore post in its store or on its Web site a disclosure of its retail pricing policy on new and used textbooks.


At the special request of State Senator Tom Harmon, the Bureau of State Audits (BSA) produced a report in August 2008, entitled “Affordability of College Textbooks: Textbook Prices Have Risen Significantly in the Last Four Years, but Some Strategies May Help to Control These Costs for Students.” It examines the rise in college textbook prices, discusses best practices, and makes recommendations. On the faculty side, the BSA found that: 1) faculty are unaware that AB 2477 and AB 1548 urge them to participate in efforts to reduce textbook costs and consider the least costly practices when selecting and assigning textbooks; 2) faculty do not realize that submitting their textbook orders by bookstore deadlines can increase cost-savings to students, and on average, only 20% of faculty submitted their textbook adoption information by the due date; and 3) faculty members admitted to adopting textbooks that come bundled with other materials, even though they do not use the supplemental material in their courses.


The BSA recommends that UC: 1) require campuses to increase faculty awareness of the factors that contribute to high textbook prices and textbook adoption processes; and 2) inform faculty of the provisions of recently-passed legislation on textbook costs. In response to the BSA audit, Interim Provost Larry Pitts sent a February 2009 letter to the Executive Vice Chancellors asking them to document “best practices” at their campuses.

Proposed Legislation

The California legislature introduced several bills relating to textbook affordability in the 2009-10 legislative session. Some of the bills would directly impact UC faculty and others target publishers.


The following bills would directly affect faculty, if passed:



A number of bills also ask publishers to proactively take steps to lower textbook prices: