Textbooks (from Flickr)
Textbooks (from Flickr)

As a current University student, I am quite frustrated with the textbooks that are required for us to buy. I know I’m not the only student that dreads looking at their book list at the start of a semester. This semester I was very pleased to discover that only 3 out of my five classes required text books. This moment of joy and relief was short lived when I realized that those 3 text books I needed totalled over $500. I thought perhaps I could get away without buying them, that maybe they weren’t actually required for the class. However, my profs insist that they are necessary for the course, despite having no assigned readings, questions or any other use of the text book. Basically, they are simply serving as added weight in my back pack every morning when I trek to the university. I only take them, with the unrealistic hope that we might crack it open that day.  This just doesn’t seem right.

The most sickening thing about purchasing text books is that it is almost impossible to find used textbooks. You wouldn’t think this would be a difficult task when so many others have have been forced to buy them in previous semesters. I’m sure there are tonnes of used text books sitting on shelves somewhere, but they were refused in book store buybacks because they had either “met their quota” or there was a newer edition being released. One of my professors, who also shares this frustration of textbooks told us that if we can find a used copy of our text, to buy it. The textbook company who published this particular math textbook came out with a new version this year. What was the difference between the two books? A shinier cover and a few true and false questions in every chapter. This cover and these questions have prevented me from being able to find a used textbook since the bookstore has refused to buyback any of the older versions, likely feeling that they are now obsolete. This is especially frustrating being a student on student loans with no income who also has to pay a ridiculous amount for rent and food.

Initially this semester, I thought I would try to beat the system. Whenever I needed to do a reading, work through some assigned questions, or look something up I was going to go find the textbook in the library. It was a foolproof idea, until I found out the library doesn’t have them. How does the library of the university not carry these books? I don’t get it. It seems like there is no way to win as a student.  Has anyone figured out a way to get around this?

I have a friend, who is also a student, who bought a “required” textbook last semester. He did not open it once because it his professor’s notes were more than sufficient to get through the class. He went to the buyback table at the beginning of this semester. His textbook was still in its plastic wrapping, with the disks that came with it still in the package. The textbook initially had cost him $180. They offered to buy it back for $30. I’m not even going to say anything about that, I’m sure you can see what’s wrong with the picture.

So how does a student get around this? I do not know. If you know, please share! I wish I did, but for now I’m stuck paying somewhere between $500 – $1000 a semester on books that may never get opened. Professors usually don’t help, they tell us we need them for the class. Maybe they get some sort of kickback if their class uses the textbooks? It doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe the new tablet technology that is emerging right now could be the savior students have been long awaiting.

iPad (from Flickr)
iPad (from Flickr)

Prior to the release of the Apple iPad, it was rumored that Apple was in talks with McGraw-Hill and Hachette discussing the possibility of getting text books in e-book form to be used on the new Apple iPad. You can read more about that here.  Since the launch of the iPad, McGraw-Hill’s CEO, Harold McGraw, told CNBC that the company will be making its textbooks available in e-book form (I found that out here).  I’m quite excited about this, and I hope more publishers will follow.  However, there are still some problems I foresee.  How much cheaper will it be? I know we’re not paying for the physical paper, binding, etc. but will they still charge almost the same amount.  And what about those students who like highlighting or writing in little notes as they go, will that be possible?  Will they expire after the semester so you can’t resell them?  I guess the more I think about it, the more I don’t like the idea. I can see them potentially being an even bigger rip off than they are right now.

Once again, I apologize for the rant, it seems like all I ever do on here is rant.  Is this frustration shared at other universities or in other schools?