College Textbooks Inclusive Access Program Antitrust Class Action

College students spend approximately $1,200 per year on textbooks. This class action alleges that certain publishers and booksellers have entered into a conspiracy to limit choice about where and how students get their textbooks, so that they can tie up college markets and ensure that prices are high. The complaint bring suit against a group of publishers and a group of retailers under the antitrust laws.

The class for this action is all students at colleges or graduate schools in the US who were required to buy textbooks or course materials through Inclusive Access.

Formerly, students had choice about how they obtained textbooks and what format of textbook they used. They could buy new or used print textbooks or digital ones; they could shop for the best prices in on- and off-campus bookstores and on Amazon, Chegg, eBay, or Craigslist.

In recent years, however, publishers (including Cengage Learning, Inc., McGraw Hill, LLC, and Pearson Education, Inc.) and the dominant retail chains that run on-campus bookstores (Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., and Follett Higher Education Group, Inc.) have instituted Inclusive Access programs that no longer permit students to have this kind of choice.

The complaint alleges that these defendants conspired to “monopoliz[e] the market for sales of course materials in any courses and on any colleges in which the Inclusive Access policy applies.” The programs “require students to obtain course materials in an online-only format from their official on-campus bookstore, and not from another source, thereby preventing Defendants from facing competition…”

“Through Inclusive Access,” the complaint says, “the Publisher Defendants require every student enrolled in an Inclusive Access course to pay for electronic access to the course textbook, guaranteeing sales for the Publisher Defendants.” The Inclusive Access textbooks can only be purchased through the on-campus bookstore, thereby guaranteeing sales for them as well.

The complaint quotes a study by the United States Public Interest Research Group as saying that Inclusive Access programs “fail to deliver real savings to students, reduce faculty and student choice, and give even more power to a handful of big publishing companies.”

“The Inclusive Access materials include reading assignments, homework problems, and quizzes[,]” the complaint claims. Although students can technically opt out of the program, the complaint says, students who do are at a disadvantage and simply will not have the required materials.

The Inclusive Access programs are so entrenched, the complaint says, that many schools automatically enroll students whose courses feature this material and bill them for the program along with their billing for tuition.

There are other disadvantages to the program. The complaint points out that the materials have an expiration date. Students cannot keep them for future reference or sell them to recoup what they spent on them. Teachers must explain how to use them, and at times technical difficulties may cause students to lose access.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Antitrust

Most Recent Case Event

College Textbooks Inclusive Access Program Antitrust Complaint

June 3, 2020

College students spend approximately $1,200 per year on textbooks. This class action alleges that certain publishers and booksellers have entered into a conspiracy to limit choice about where and how students get their textbooks, so that they can tie up college markets and ensure that prices are high. The complaint bring suit against a group of publishers and a group of retailers under the antitrust laws.

College Textbooks Inclusive Access Program Antitrust Complaint

Case Event History

College Textbooks Inclusive Access Program Antitrust Complaint

June 3, 2020

College students spend approximately $1,200 per year on textbooks. This class action alleges that certain publishers and booksellers have entered into a conspiracy to limit choice about where and how students get their textbooks, so that they can tie up college markets and ensure that prices are high. The complaint bring suit against a group of publishers and a group of retailers under the antitrust laws.

College Textbooks Inclusive Access Program Antitrust Complaint
Tags: Antitrust, Education, Textbooks