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OSU implements controversial textbook program

Standing at a cash register inside the new Barnes and Nobles bookstore on the OSU campus, sophomore August Ceque winces as he hands a cashier $224 for two books and some school supplies. He says it's not the first time he's spent hundreds of dollars on books. He calls the system a rip-off, and says he thinks it's wrong.

"I don't think it's fair at all," Ceque says. "Every time I get a new book, and I try to take it back, they're like 'We're getting a new copy. The most I'll give you is $1' when I paid $100 for the book."

And Ceque considers himself lucky. He says he once spent more than $500 on books. He says he has friends who have spent almost $1,000 on books for one quarter.

It's students like Ceque who pushed OSU to start an organized textbook reserve system in its libraries. Undergraduate Student Government policy director Dave Knapp says he approached OSU officials with the idea after several students complained to USG about escalating book prices.

"We approached the OSU libraries, and it just so happened we approached them at just the right time," Knapp says. "They were thinking about something similar to that idea, so we partnered in the project. It got under way, and it's a test project right now. We began in winter quarter, and are hoping to reevaluate after spring quarter to see where we're at."

Knapp says the 200 textbooks cost the university about $12,000. The money was allocated from the general library fund. All of the books are located in the Science and Engineering Library on W. 18th Avenue because it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But access is limited. Students are not allowed to remove the books from the library. If textbook loan programs like OSU's take hold, publishers stand to lose significant profits. Jones and Bartlett is a Massachusetts-based publisher who claims to be the seventh largest college textbook publisher in the United States. Jones and Bartlett office manager Phil Regan says it should be "blatantly obvious" how the industry feels about textbooks in libraries. He calls OSU's new policy irresponsible, and says he has a good idea why they adopted it. Regan declined further comment, and did not want to be recorded for this story. All other publishers contacted for this story declined comment or did not return phone calls.

At present, it appears OSU is unique in having such a large and standardized library textbook system. The Association of College and Research Libraries is a national organization that works with libraries to develop and maintain their collections. ACRL president Pamela Snelson applauds OSU for trying to save students money, but she predicts most students will continue to purchase textbooks for the convenience of having their own copy.

"If you're restricted to using the book in the library and it's not your property, you don't get a full use of it," Snelson says. "Students want to highlight it, then might want to write notes in it, you may want to take it to class with you, you may want to take it home for the weekend."

Ohio State officials say the textbook program is in a test phase. But Snelson doubts whether OSU is at the front end of a trend. She says most libraries lack funds to purchase large numbers of textbooks. Ohio State officials say student use of the program will determine its future.