eBay Bans Selling Teacher’s Edition Textbooks

by beagooddad on August 28, 2006

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EBay recently decided to ban Teacher’s Editions of textbooks.  It seems like a strange policy to me.  Even more interesting is the reaction that the decision has created amongst homeschool teachers.

It appears that homeschool teachers buy used Teacher Edition textbooks and then sell them on eBay at the end of the year.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Textbooks are seriously expensive.  I bought used textbooks for college whenever possible.  I normally either kept them or resold them to the school library for a few bucks.

EBay seems perfectly suited for reselling the books, though.  And, it appears that buying Teacher’s Edition books is perfectly legal as it should be.  Why shouldn’t I be able to buy the edition of the book the Teachers are using?  As a parent, I should be able to purchase it just so I can make sure I am comfortable with what the schools are teaching.  I should also be able to suplement my kids education at home or provide help with homework if I want to.

Some of the reactions are interesting, though.  Parents who can no longer sell/buy the Teacher’s Editions are mad because they cannot unload their old textbooks and they will have to pay more to buy new textbooks.  There are a lot of comments like “Where do they get off telling me I don’t have the right to….”

An important point to remember is that eBay is a company.  They are not a government subsidized online garage sale.  Ebay has every right to prohibit selling whatever they want.  If they no longer want to support the homemade duct tape wallet market, they can ban the sale of homemade duct tape wallets.

It might be a stupid decision that would cost them money in the long run, but they can make that decision.

Lots of people are accusing them of supporting the liberal conspiracy theories to dumb down education and push political agendas.

I’m betting the decision was probably made for a much more fiscally influenced decision.  I have trouble believing that eBay cares enough about who wins the next election or what beliefs your children have to push that agenda through this new policy.

When dealing with big companies, it is normally a good idea to realize that they are not normally making decisions to piss off certain demographics, in this case homeschoolers.

First, eBay might have some legitimate concern with your son buying a Teacher’s Edition manual for his geometry class and not doing any actual homework all year.

I think this is a weak argument.  It is not eBay’s job to parent our kids.  If Pookie and Geetle save up their allowance to buy the textbook and then end up flunking all the tests, they will have some explaining to do and I will not be blaming eBay.  If they buy the textbook, and end up getting a good grade in the class, then they must have done well in the class and learned the material otherwise they would not have made it past the tests.  If a teacher teaches a class that can be passed just by knowing the answers to the homework assignments that are given out of the text book, then they probably are not doing a good job of educating your kids.

Now, if you let me put on my tin foil hat for a second, there might be another reason eBay made their decision.  There were 1.1 million homeschooled students in the United States in 2003.  That is a whole lot of Teacher Edition textbooks that get bought each year.  I wonder if eBay was getting some kind of pressure from the textbook publishers.  If eBay bans selling textbooks, then most of the parents of those 1.1 million students will need to buy 6 to 8 textbooks per kid.  Let’s say they average $100 per book.  That is more then $660 million dollars of sales.  That is some serious change for the publishers.  If eBay sells textbooks, the publishers will lose a very large sum of that money.

Could there be some seedy under the table deal going on between eBay and the publishers where the publishers provide some payola to eBay to enforce the strange policy?  There could be, but I am guessing that eBay is worried about lawsuits from people like me and you when my kid buys Teacher’s Edition textbooks without my knowledge and flunks a grade.  After all this is America, and we sue about anything.

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