The law was passed in California. (Image credit: David Guo)

Have you ever picked up a new edition of a textbook and wondered how it was different from a textbook with the same title that was printed a year or two ago? A new law recently signed off on in California will help students better understand these differences, according to a story from the U.S. News University Website.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown of California recently signed a bill into law that will require college textbook publishers to clearly explain to potential buyers the differences in new editions of their textbooks. This bill, which is formally known as SB1539, will include any new additions to the newer versions of the books and what kinds of things have been added to them that were not included in previous editions.

The main reason for this new law is that students and professors will now have more options when purchasing their textbooks. They will know upfront whether or not they need to even invest in the newer editions of certain books, or if they can simply stick with a slightly older version if the newer ones do not contain new information that is particularly relevant to their upcoming courses.

This new legislation was originally drafted by Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett. She said she hopes it will reduce the increasing costs of textbooks that college students must pay every semester.

“This legislation is one logical way to help lower the cost of textbooks so college students on tight budgets can stay in school,” Corbett told The Associated Press, from which the story was later picked up. “The high cost of college textbooks now forces many students to choose between paying their utility bills or buying the materials they need for class, and that’s not the way it should be.”

This is not the first time that California lawmakers have attempted to reduce textbook costs for college students. In May of this year, a package of bills aimed at expanding student access to free digital textbooks made it to the California Senate. If passed, this package of bills would allow California college students to access a library of open-source textbooks and course materials.

Because there is such variation in the prices of new textbooks compared to used ones, as evidenced by the price comparison tool on Textbooks.org, this bill will likely help students save a great deal of money. However, it will likely depend on their professors and the courses they teach as to which books students must have. If professors insist that students purchase new editions of textbooks, it will mean continued higher costs for books, especially if students are required to complete specific assignments that are only included in newer versions of books.

The bottom line is that there must be a mutual agreement among students, professors, and book publishers for there to be significant reductions to textbook prices. Until this happens, things will mostly remain the same.