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Parents Encouraged to Take Advantage of Options in Purchasing Textbooks


JIS: The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is encouraging parents to take advantage of the varied options to minimise expenses for the purchase of textbooks for the 2018/19 academic year.


Speaking with JIS News, Communications Specialist at the CAC, Dorothy Campbell, outlines some of the options that parents can explore to ensure that their children are equipped with the necessary books for the new school year.


Among the options are school-book rental schemes and using social media platforms to facilitate book exchanges or buying books advertised on these platforms at a discounted rate.


Another option, she recommends, is the purchase of books from independent distributors who have established relationships with schools to supply textbooks at a reasonable cost.


Ms. Campbell is advising parents to check that these online books have the current information that is being used by the teacher.


“The CAC is all about ensuring that parents are empowered with whatever information or tools are available, so the online access is very important. However, I would caution that students who may choose to use online versions of a textbook to ensure that it is the correct edition, because sometimes there are slight revisions or very significant revisions that will entail an entire chapter being inserted, or the text may be time-sensitive,” she tells JIS News.


Ms. Campbell also recommends that parents check whether the books are under revision. This can be done by comparing the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) with that of the most recent edition.


The ISBN is a 10- or 13-digit number that identifies a specific registered book, an edition of a book, or a book-like product (such as an audio book).


“Check to make sure that they match, because a book may carry the same writer, same title – everything – but that critical line …which says revised edition (with the year) is vital, as it may impact critical material,” she explains.


Ms. Campbell notes that an important part of planning are the orientation exercises hosted by schools, and urges parents to attend these sessions as they can give parents valuable information to assist in managing back-to-school expenses.


“Ensure that you participate in the orientation sessions and that you take notes. If the opportunity arises, ensure that you meet your child’s homeroom teacher, and network with other school officials and parents to find out what are the critical items that you need to get,” she says.


Students are also encouraged to take note of any information from the schools during the first week about books that may no longer be relevant for the course or will not be used in the first term.


“The teacher will be able to tell them if they need ‘literature book A’ for the first term, but don’t need the other two until later down in the year, so you only need to purchase one instead of three at once. You can delay buying those until you are in a position to do so. It is important that you talk to your child. We want parents to exhaust these opportunities before they go off and purchase new books in stores,” Ms. Campbell says.


She also advises parents to check with community civic groups, including churches and parent-teacher associations (PTAs), for any opportunity to access used books at special prices.


Additionally, Ms. Campbell is also encouraging parents to use the Price Inquiry Tool Portal on the CAC’s website in their planning and management of purchases.


“What we are asking parents to do is, if they have access to the Internet, they can visit our website at and use the price enquiry tool to select the store from one of the 90 outlets.


They will see the prices, and they can plan for the amount of money they have to spend, what they can purchase now, versus what they can purchase in a couple of weeks,” she says.


Parents can also use the CAC Annual Textbook Survey on the website as a shopping guide.


This year’s survey indicates that there is an overall two per cent increase in the average price islandwide for all texts out of 90 retailers surveyed.


Of the 90 bookstores visited between July 23 and 27, some 26 are located in the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area (Kingston, St. Andrew, Portmore and Spanish Town) and 64 from other urban and rural towns of all the parishes, including St. Catherine.


A total of 133 popular textbooks were surveyed, consisting of 90 secondary-level, 30 primary-level and 13 infant-level textbooks covering 17 subject areas.


The results of the survey revealed the following: a five per cent increase in prices for infant-school texts, with an average cost of $1,224.95 in 62 per cent of the stores; a four per cent price increase for primary-school texts, with an average cost of $1,566.73 in 64 per cent of stores; a one per cent decrease in grades seven to nine texts, with an average cost of $1,795.85 in 39 per cent of stores; and a one per cent decrease in CSEC/CAPE texts, with an average cost of $3,578.36 in 23 per cent of stores surveyed.


CAPTION: Communications Specialist at the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Dorothy Campbell, speaks at a JIS ‘Think Tank’.