California State U To Trade Ad Campaign For Cheaper Textbooks

Ann McClure's picture

An ad campaign for a certain textbook publisher will appear on California State University campuses this spring in the form of memos to faculty, notices in student newspapers, and posters at bookstore counters.

But the promotional messages won't come from the publisher, Cengage Learning, which sells nearly a quarter million textbooks to CSU students each year. They'll come from the university itself.

The odd new role for CSU administrators - promoting a company's products over the next three years - turns out to be the university's perhaps innovative way of addressing one of higher education's most vexing dilemmas: sky-high textbook prices.

In exchange for putting the name "Cengage" in front of textbook consumers at the nation's largest university system, the company will rent its electronic textbooks for 60 percent off the hard-copy price - about a 10 percent drop from what students are now charged for temporary access to e-books.

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