Wednesday 1 March 2017

Publishers snub Quinn's school book prices plea

Education Minister told costs have already been cut

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

SCHOOL book publishers have snubbed Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, saying they will not make any "rash" decisions on reducing prices.

Mr Quinn said he wants to see a reduction in the cover price of the most popular textbooks as part of a range of proposals to bring down costs for parents.

However, a spokeswoman for Folens, one of the country's biggest education publishers, said it had already reduced prices this year -- and refused to say whether it would heed the minister's call for next year.

"Folens is fully prepared to enter into an open dialogue with the minister for next year, but we won't be making any rash decision on reducing prices," she said.

"It's a very changeable market we are operating in, and 12 months is a long time.

"Folens is perfectly happy to continue to meet with the minister to support his efforts to help parents and kids."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the minister would hold further meetings with publishers.

Mr Quinn has already held a number of meetings with publishers, parents' representatives and the St Vincent de Paul to discuss how to bring down book costs.

"It is too early to pre-empt what those discussions will be. We were pleased with the outcome of the meetings and the attitudes of the publishers," she added.

A recent survey found that books for primary school children cost on average €125 a year, rising to €238 for secondary students. And an Irish Independent investigation found that repeat editions of the same textbooks featured only very minor or cosmetic changes to content -- despite parents being asked to fork out for the new editions.

The Irish Educational Publishers' Association last month agreed a new voluntary code of practice for the industry, which includes a pledge not to revise an edition of a textbook within four years of it first being published and to keep the edition in print throughout that period.

Second-hand

While the initiative came too late for the start of the new school year this week, publishers said they expected parents to benefit from next year as books would be able to be passed down to younger siblings or sold second-hand.

Mr Quinn welcomed the code of practice as a "significant step in the right direction". However, he warned that more could be done. The minister said he wanted schools that bought textbooks in bulk to be given the same discounts enjoyed by retailers. He also called for an end to the practice of textbooks and workbooks being published in a single volume so as to allow students to re-use books through rental schemes.

Mr Quinn also wants support materials for teachers to be provided online to minimise printing costs and help reduce costs further.

Irish Independent

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