Students, instructors forced to seek creative solutions to avoid shelling out big bucks for textbooks

OTTAWA, Sept. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - As students return to class, costs weigh heavy on the minds of many. Tuition and rent may be the most prominent costs for students, but with a term's worth of textbooks often costing as much as a month's rent, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and Campus Stores Canada (CSC) think it is important to highlight easy ways that government can reduce costs for students, including amending Canada's Book Importation Regulations.

Few people are aware of how great a barrier their cost of learning materials can be. The Canadian Roundtable on Academic Materials recently reported that prices had increased by 280% in a fifteen-year period. Texts are essential part of a post-secondary education, and students have little flexibility in what books they buy.

"The rise in book costs have vastly outstripped inflation, so we are confident there are more than market forces at play in these increases," said Jonathan Champagne, National Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

One example of this is the artificial inflation of foreign book prices by government regulation. Since 1998, the Copyright Act has allowed publishers to establish Canadian import monopolies on books by authors from around the world. These exclusive distributors can in turn add an additional 10 or 15% to the price of a book. If distributors do not charge more than this, the Copyright Act makes it a violation for individual bookstores to purchase from foreign distributors.

"This extra 10-15% surcharge amounts to a "private tax," collected from the pockets of Canadian consumers and kept in the bank accounts of publishers," said Chris Tabor, manager of the Queen's University Bookstore and spokesperson for CSC. "This private tax costs Canadian students an extra $25 million a year and offers no policy benefit to the Canadian public. With the stroke of a pen, government could put millions back in the wallets of students without spending a penny from the public purse."

"This private tax has a particular effect on textbooks," continued Champagne. "an extra dollar on a novel may not be a big deal, but on a $200 textbook, this can mean a $30 difference. That has a real impact on students."

Certainly, university and college students are always looking for ways to reduce costs on learning materials. Used books are perennial favourites for thrifty students, and book rentals and e-books are becoming increasingly available. However, removing this private tax would provide immediate financial relief for students. In fact, doing so was identified as a way of lowering Canadian retail prices in a study by the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. The Department of Canadian Heritage is currently considering the Senate Committee's recommendation."

"We support elimination of this private tax that is passed on to students," said Champagne. "Given how easy it is to change regulations, there's no reason why Canadian students should continue to be asked to pay more for the same book than their colleagues in other countries," concluded Tabor.

The Senate study on pricing is available at The section on book importation begins at page 53.

Campus Stores Canada is the national trade association that represents institutionally owned and operated campus bookstores, and has almost 100 member stores and more than 150 vendor and supplier associates across Canada. CASA is an alliance of student associations and student unions from across Canada. It has 24 member organizations and represents over 300,000 students nationwide.

SOURCE: Campus Stores Canada

For further information:

or to arrange interviews:

For Campus Stores Canada:
Michael Powell (613) 233-8906 (office)
(613) 797-7313 (mobile)

Rob LeForte
Government Relations Officer
(613) 720-5726

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