Given the outrageous — and rising — costs of textbooks, it would be reasonable to assume that universities across the country are making a concerted effort to work in students’ best interests and keep prices down.
Sadly, this assumption would be wrong.
Universities, in fact, generally have exclusivity contracts with companies like Barnes & Noble and — in Georgetown’s case — Follett that guarantee campus bookstores a monopoly on the on-campus textbook market. These longstanding deals prevent competitors from operating within a certain radius of campus grounds, and, until recently, have prevented students from the benefits of a competitive market.
Enter online venues like Chegg and Amazon to afford students a fighting chance. The merits of these companies need not be expounded upon, but the danger they are in, on the other hand, is certainly of note.
Beginning to take note of their diminishing monopoly, campus bookstores and their corporate overlords have started to contest the legality of advertisements from companies such as Chegg and Amazon on campuses.
This is particularly troubling for Chegg, which sends promotional buses in the vicinity of campus to advertise itself as an alternative to the campus bookstore.
Universities’ challenges to these advertisements, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, take the form of cease-and-desist letters and mandate that Chegg cover its logo with masking tape. While the Chegg bus has yet to make its way to Georgetown, universities such as Southern Connecticut State University have already sided with bookstores by issuing cease-and-desist orders to anyone advertising for Chegg on campus.
As textbook prices keep rising, however, rather than joining the universities that have fought Chegg’s presence on their campuses, Georgetown should look to lower the costs of textbooks for its own courses and support students who seek an alternative to bookstore prices. If Chegg comes near Georgetown’s front gates, we hope there will be no masking tape in sight.