Instructors told not to sell textbook desk copies

These Philosophy books sit in Professor Cara Gillis' bookshelf in Faculty Office 2603 at Pierce College on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in Woodland Hills, Calif. Professors are prohibited from selling these books as specifically printed on these books. Photo: Laura Chen
These Philosophy books sit in Professor Cara Gillis’ bookshelf in Faculty Office 2603 at Pierce College on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 in Woodland Hills, Calif. Professors are prohibited from selling these books as specifically printed on these books. Photo: Laura Chen

The current Textbook Adoption Policy includes a guideline that instructors are not able to sell desk copies provided by the publishers, yet book prices have increased over time due to textbooks being sold to book buyers.

The book buyers that approach professors do not work on campus. Denise Robb, a District Academic Representative and assistant professor of Political Science, has issues with how book buyers approach instructors.

“Book buyers are people that buy books off of professors and then they sell them. I have never taken money from these people because it does not seem right,” Robb said. “I’ve given some books away but I do not take money.”

Holly Hagan, one of the Book Buyers that works in the Bookstore, does not like what off campus book buyers are doing to the school.

“We call these guys sniffs,” Hagan said. “They are out to capture free books instructors receive and it’s illegal for instructors to sell them.”

The off campus book buyers and instructors that sell extra copies to the Bookstore can affect the pricing of books.

“In the 90s a hardback math textbook would cost around $100 and now paperback math solution books cost that much,” Hagan said. “You are not even getting a textbook you are only getting the answer guide and it’s paperback.”

The Bookstore has the ability to contribute to various departments and different areas of the campus.

“Students are less likely to buy from us when prices increase on books,” Hagan said. “A lot of students buy their books from off campus stores or online not knowing that it takes away from the contribution that the Bookstore can provide to the campus.”

Suggestions have been given as to what should happen to textbooks versus giving them to book buyers. Cara Gillis, a representative of the Ethics Committee and a professor of Philosophy, views the situation on book buyers from an ethical perspective.

“Often people will donate their extra copies to the library or put them on reserve for students who can’t get the book right away,” Gillis said.

Some instructors may not agree with others on the policy of selling or giving away books to book buyers.

“Anything publishers give you for free is considered a desk copy,” Gillis said. “The Academic Senate says that you ‘shall not’ which basically means you shouldn’t sell the books, but there is not any consequence necessarily and that’s the issue.”

The Textbook Adoption Policy does not state that instructors are prohibited from speaking with book buyers.

“If I want to have a conversation with a book buyer then that’s my prerogative to do that,” Gillis said. “Now I believe when it says that the book remains property of OUP [Oxford University Press] and sale is prohibited then that’s binding but maybe that’s just me.”

California governor Jerry Brown passed a law that can be beneficial to students and teachers alike. AB 798 is known as the California Textbook Affordability Act and was sponsored by California State Student Association and supported by California State University, California Community College and academic senates.

According to an article in Press-Telegram from October 2015, AB 798 promises to save students money by expanding the use of open educational resources and providing the technology and professional development needed for professors who choose to use the free digital materials.

“I suggested we donate them because otherwise what are we supposed to do with them,” Robb said. “If all of the professors donated their books to poor children that could make a big difference.”

OUP publishing company provides books to the instructors on campus. Some instructors have found other alternatives to giving away books besides selling them to buyers.

“In the fall I’m starting free book, it’s a free textbook and what I’ll do is post a link on Moodle to the text,” Robb said. “The governor passed a law that encourages us to use free textbooks.”