Higher Education Opportunity Act Affects Textbook Publishers/Supplement Bundling with Textbooks

by John Soares on April 30, 2009

Congress recently passed legislation that will affect the college textbook publishing industry. The new bill, HR 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), has been enacted. Of course, it covers many aspects of college education in the United States.

Of particular importance to us is the provision affecting college textbook publishers and the supplements they provide for textbooks.

Here’s how the American Council on Education summarized the Higher Education Opportunity Act effect on college textbooks and supplements:

Effective July 1, 2010, institutions will be required to disclose in their course schedules, “to the maximum extent practicable,” the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of every required and recommended textbook and supplemental materials and retail price information. Lacking accurate information about the ISBN number at the time the course schedules are set, the institution is permitted to indicate that this information is “to be determined.” Publishers are required to provide faculty with information on price, copyright dates of the three previous editions, any substantial revisions between a new edition and prior iterations, whether the textbook is available in any other format and at what price and to supply textbooks in bundled and unbundled formats. [emphasis added]

Bundled refers to inclusion of textbook supplements such as student study guides course readers.

From a practical perspective, most publishers already supply this information to faculty, or it is readily available on the Internet (such as copyright dates of previous editions). However, depending on how the Department of Education decides to interpret and implement the legislation, precise regulations could require publishers to do more. One obvious area is the “substantial revisions” between editions.

What do you think of this legislation? Do you approve or not? How do you think it will affect college textbook publishers? How could it affect production of textbook supplements?

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