Advocates concerned over merger of textbook companies

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WASHINGTON (WAVY) – Two of the largest textbook companies say they are merging. 

McGraw-Hill and Cengage say the move will mean cheaper prices for college students.  

However, some students and consumer advocates say the merger is bad news. They argue the lower prices won’t last long.

Nick Sengstaken, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says the rising price of textbooks takes a toll on students.

“Students shouldn’t have to choose between an A and putting food on the table,” he said. “When we get into the student store and we see that price, the first thing we think is ‘am I going to be able to eat this month? Am I going to be able to pay rent?’”

Kaitlyn Vitez of the Public Interest Research Group says a merger of the two textbook companies could make the problem even worse.

“Over the past four decades, prices have raised three times faster than inflation. So, the only things that are actually more expensive are college tuition itself and health care,” she said. “This is fundamentally changing the textbook market and creating a duopoly.”

The companies’ CEOs say they plan to launch a service that works like Netflix, giving students access to thousands of books with a single subscription.

But consumer advocates aren’t impressed.

Heather Joseph with the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition worries the companies will raise prices down the road.

“It would create two massive companies that control 80% of the textbook market, which gives students way less choice,” she said. “We know from experience we have to take this seriously.”

Consumer groups say the merger also raises data privacy concerns.

Some lawmakers are also concerned.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says he is “skeptical” the merger is in the best interest of students.

He is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate to ensure students’ data cannot be sold or stored.

Both companies deny data will be compromised in any way.

DOJ is investigating whether the merger violates antitrust laws.

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