Wednesday, April 11, 2007


One of the biggest shams in the educational world is the cost of college textbooks. Professors expect students to pay around $100 for a book that they probably have no interest in reading and most likely won’t use a few months after it was purchased. Text books are expensive because they are generally large, hardcover books that have many full color pages in them. On top of the expense of printing a single book these books generally don’t sell many copies so the huge publication cost is spread across a relatively small number of books.

The real fraud in this business is the publication of new editions every year or every few years. The differences between editions can be as insignificant as a new cover. Often the introduction is the only change. Sometimes the only differences are the homework questions found at the end of the chapters.

I used the 7th edition of an engineering book almost 5 years ago when I took a drafting class. Last year I took the next class in the series which required the 9th edition of the same book. I checked with the teacher during the first week of the class to compare the two books. They were virtually identical. The only changes were the cover, the introduction, and the side-bar examples scattered throughout the chapters. Of the hundreds of diagrams and problems found throughout the book, every single one matched between the two books. Thus I saved $80 by recycling my old book.

On the other end of that scale was my Calculus book from three years ago. I needed a particular edition for my 1st quarter calculus class. For the following quarter I needed the next edition which had come out during the fall. I could not reuse the book because the problems were different. Honestly, how much of the theories behind calculus changed in my lifetime? Never mind three months!

Most of my teachers have encouraged the students to buy used books from the campus bookstore to save money. I have a better solution: check the library first. Many of the books I’ve needed for classes were available at the public library. I could put them on reserve so that I would be able to check out the next available copy. I can also talk a few friends of mine to also put that book on reserve so that when it is due, I turn it in and they then check it out for me. This allows for the use of a textbook during the entire quarter at no cost.

The second option is to buy the book used, but not from the campus bookstore. The few books that I cannot get from the library are always available from Amazon, usually for less than the bookstore. This quarter I needed three textbooks, two I was able to check out from the library, and I bought the third off Amazon for $18 with shipping. A friend needed an Anthropology book; it was $106 + tax at the bookstore new or $80 + tax used; Amazon had the book new for $106 with free shipping and no sales tax, or used for $48 + $4 shipping with no sales tax either. Buying online can save you almost half on your textbook purchases.

Taken from my and Carter's blog "Living Large on Le$$"


Polka Dotted Pickles said...

Yeah, I try not to think about it too much. I fork out a fortune each semester as a bio major. I will probably end up paying about 800 next fall. There is nothing on the net, but maybe I can get some from ppl who have already taken the class. Crossing the fingers...:)

Mercy Now said...

I have a friend who sells books to professors and she tells me that they do give them perks (passes to things and "convention" trips). Yeah, so students who can't afford much are required to spend much so the profs who already make sizeable income can have more perks.

Mercy Now said...

Saw your comment on Trebonte, what's UWB, U of West Bakerville? :o)