Lawsuit to Teach a Lesson

  • Sumo

Eliminating a monopoly

College tuition and housing is expensive enough.  But how much are textbooks?  While students may be fully aware of the cost of their education and living on campus before they commit to a particular school, they are not initially provided a breakdown of the price of their course material, per class, per semester. About ten years ago, e-books were only being introduced as a mainstream method of studying.  You could still find most students walking around campus with heavy textbooks.  Since then, textbook sales have decreased, and students are electing to bypass print in order to study material entirely online.  Despite the shift in preference, the textbook market is allegedly depleting options for obtaining needed course material.   

In a new class action lawsuit, textbook publishers Cengage, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill are accused of violating antitrust laws under the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act, both of which were passed to help prevent monopolies.  The lawsuit was initiated by a student, who recognized the unfair monopoly in the market of college textbooks.  The plaintiff claims that students are forced to pay for their online books under a business model known as Inclusive Access.  Under the apparent discount program, instead of having to purchase individual written textbooks, students receive digital course material for all of their classes, to be included in the cost of tuition.  No more waiting in line at the campus bookstore with syllabus in hand.  Some higher education institutions do not even offer the choice of buying tangible print textbooks anymore, leaving Inclusive Access as the only option.

The assumed intention behind publishers pushing for Inclusive Access is to stop students from seeking used textbooks.  If students are instantly provided their e-books and online access codes, they do not have the opportunity to choose between the purchase of new textbooks, used textbooks, or e-books.  The choice of browsing various book distributors, such as Amazon or Chegg, for the best deal is also eliminated.  Regardless of whether or not students prefer tangible textbooks over online course material, the lawsuit is intended to afford students the right to choose their favored method of studying, free of a monopolized market swaying the decision.