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JIS News

As the new academic year approaches and last minute back-to-school purchases are made, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is reporting that parents should not see a marked increase in the prices of textbooks for primary and secondary schools.”Overall we did not see a significant increase in the prices compared to last year,” explained Director of Research at the CAC, Hugh Taylor in an interview with JIS News.
“We looked at it in bands and generally we found that a vast majority of the books fell in the below ten per cent increase band,” he said while sharing the findings of the CAC’s 2007 School Textbook Survey, which aims to capture and publish the prices of selected primary and secondary school books available in bookstores across the island.
“This year in particular we took the time to have background discussion with the Book Association of Jamaica so that we have a proper and full understanding of the factors, which influence the pricing and availability of books on the market,” he said.
“We found that the industry is not merely a distributive network for books, it is in fact an industry by itself which also includes the printing, binding, designing and publishing of books,” Mr. Taylor noted, adding that these will invariably affect the pricing of books.
The total number of texts surveyed amounted to 120 of which 74 per cent were secondary level texts and 26 per cent were primary level texts. According to the Director of Research, the survey was intended to capture data for all bookstores in the major towns of all parishes. However, there were cases where this was not possible.
Of the 78 stores that were identified, approximately 65 participated in the survey. Twenty-seven of these were from the Kingston Metropolitan Area while 38 were from rural towns.
“There were wide variations in prices because of several factors. There were cases where stores priced according to the location that they are in and there are other stores that might have imported at higher exchange rates,” he pointed out.
Continuing he stated, “We were able to confirm that those who imported from countries using the dollar currency would have experienced, over the one-year period, in excess of a four per cent increase due to the change in the value of the dollar, while those who imported from sterling sources would have experienced a possible 16 per cent increase.”
There were several other factors which impacted on prices such as the design of the book; the illustrative component, that is, whether or not the book was printed in black and white or colour; the method of binding; the quality of the paper and type of cover; the print quantity or production cost, as well as the edition
“The print centre is also a very important aspect of pricing. These centres are usually external countries or agents and some are located in China, India and Singapore. These countries utilize more modern technologies and tend to be more economical,” he told JIS News.
Commenting on the availability of textbooks, Mr. Taylor noted that in general, primary school books were more available than secondary school texts.
“Most of the secondary books were available at say 80 to 90 per cent of the books stores in the corporate area and a fairly good average of probably about 70 to 80 per cent in the rural areas, but as you go towards the secondary texts we found that the availability was less,” he said.
Technical subject areas such as Technical Drawing, Building, Electrical Installation, as well as Physics and Principles of Economics were least available in both metropolitan and rural areas. The reason for this, Mr. Taylor noted is the lack of popularity of these subjects.
In the meantime Mr. Taylor noted that customers should shop around and compare the prices at a number of stores before purchasing books for back to school. “I recommend that persons shop around wisely because they can effect savings by doing so. There are in fact reasonable choices available to consumers,” he advised.”I would also recommend that they not only look at the prices of new books because there are also used books available and they should also take advantage of the book rental schemes at their child’s school. Second hand books generally have the same information that a new book has so if they can get those they would have saved significantly,” he further noted.
Persons who need additional information on the prices of books in their area may contact the CAC at 926-1650-2 or visit their website at www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm to view the results of the survey.