College students struggling to afford the high price of textbooks rejoiced last week when Amazon expanded its textbook rental service to cover paper books. This week comes news of a venture that could could make students even more joyous. A new website, RayGunReports.com, will allow students to tell at a glance if instead of buying the newest edition of a textbook for their class, they can make do with a typically much cheaper previous edition instead.
The cost of course materials — mainly textbooks — contributes in large part to the college debt burden. Using inhouse research, RayGun calculated that the cost of textbooks runs a typical student more than $80 a month when factoring in average cost and interest over a five year repayment period. Textbooks serve as huge moneymakers not just to the publishers who push out a new edition nearly every year, but to campus bookstores who often apply hefty markups to the textbooks they sell. By forcing students to acquire the latest edition for classes, schools are also sabotaging the textbook second-hand market — and depriving students of one of their best opportunities for saving money.
RayGunReports.com aims to change that by allowing students to see if the differences between current and previous textbook editions are drastic enough to warrant spending money on the best and newest. Each textbook will have an attached C.L.O.N.E. report which will list the differences in content, figures, and problem sets to allow students to decide if they can make do with a cheaper edition of the textbook required for class. Furthermore, if any differences are detected, the report will provide links to the new content online.
Chicago based founders Aaron Priest and Adam Seithel, recent grad school students themselves, truly believe in higher education and founded RayGun as a way to bring college costs down. Adam and Aaron firmly believe that students can buy an older edition of a textbook, with a C.L.O.N.E. Report, and do as well academically as students who buy new editions.
Adam Seithel, RayGun's co-founder, said he was motivated by the fact that between tuition and various fees, many people were in danger of being completely priced out of higher education. The idea of C.L.O.N.E. reports was borne from the desire to do something to relieve college students' fiscal burden.
"And the textbook market is broken, at best, and predatory at worst. Higher-education has taken the focus away from the most important element – the student. At Raygun, we are empowering students to make informed decisions when purchasing their textbooks. An informed student base will have the best chance at shifting the market away from these outrageous prices. The best part is, we can make these changes today."