Over the first two weeks of March 2014, Paperight hosted two LIVE Twitter debates for students, publishers, teachers, lecturers, booksellers and all interested parties to share their views on the subject of textbook availability and high prices. With the help of Kelsey Wiens and Eve Gray from UCT, the #textbookrevolution gathered a fantastic cross section of opinions and criticisms to help us move the campaign forward.
Our first debate, held on the 6th of March 2014, attracted mainly industry players who steered the debate towards how prices can be cut and what restraints exist that are preventing this becoming common practice. We also welcomed teachers, a smattering of students and a variety of student welfare organisations to the mix. The following points were raised and debated:
- The need for more SA academics to chip in and write textbooks for their students rather than relying on expensive foreign equivalents
- When SA lecturers write textbooks, there is a tendency to prescribe the same textbook even long after it is out of date which needs to be addressed
- Digital or paper resources? On this point, the opinions were equally divided with most conceding to fall into the middle ground that both need to exist to be most effective
- The high cost of the supply chain (printing, storage, transport and waste)
- How students manage when they can’t afford to buy their prescribed textbooks
The success of the first debate necessitated a second one, held on the 13th of March 2014. This time around we pushed for more students to take part and we were not disappointed! Particularly by University of Pretoria students who chipped in en masse to share their personal experiences of buying their textbooks. The Tuks SRC started the debate with a bang sharing a photo of a textbook that costs R1035.95 and asking students to comment – shew! What a kicker to get students talking about downloading .pdf’s of textbooks, paying extortionate prices, sharing textbooks with friends, dealing with library short loans and even relying on student loans that don’t actually cover the cost of their textbooks. Even Van Schaik’s weighed in to explain the bookseller/publisher side to the students. Having them involved kept the debate moving along, and meant that the results are multi-faceted and really illuminating.
Tweets flew in thick and fast over the hour of the debate – so fast in fact that we struggled to keep up and even managed to get the hashtag #textbookrevolution to trend in South Africa! Amid all the tweets about Oscar Pistorius, South Africans were also debating a better future for school and university students. This is not the last of the #textbookrevolution. You can get involved too: simply log into Twitter, search for the #textbookrevolution, and have your say.
So keep tweeting about it, share the petition and sow the seeds of debate among those you know because every #textbookrevolution supporter carries this campaign even closer to success. As a collective of individuals eager for a better option, we can help countless future South Africans achieve their full potential. Viva la #textbookrevolution!