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Criminal

Midway through class today, a student told me he had lost the course textbook: The Associated Press Stylebook. It's the only book I require for this particular course. "Good thing it's only a $20 book as opposed to a $150 book for a literature class," I said, trying to ballpark an outrageous price.

As it turned out, my guess about a $150 book fell well short.

"My book for Italian cost me $300," he said.

College textbooks: What a racket. Overall, the prices for college textbooks lie somewhere between price-gouging and criminal.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
nodressrehersal
Sep. 27th, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
Not only that, but how about when the newest edition is required, even though the publisher made only cursory changes to the previous edition, and to the edition before that, and the edition before that. A racket, indeed.

patrick_vecchio
Sep. 27th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
More thievery.
sahlah
Sep. 27th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
This quarter our program spent over $8K on books for our students - and that was only for the students without their financial aid in place. One student had $700 worth of books for a computer class - not including the software. It is criminal.
patrick_vecchio
Sep. 27th, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)
Fortunately, the bookstore usually is willing to buy them back at the end of the semester—for pennies on the dollar. And then the book-sellers peddle the used books at prices that allow for a bountiful return on those pennies. It's unconscionable.
cougarfang
Sep. 27th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Tell me about it =_=;; Worse yet - my dad's written a couple of comp sci textbooks, which are said to be super popular in many universities, but you wouldn't know it from the royalty checks he gets. He's paid cents per textbook sold.

WTF WHERE DOES ALL THAT MONEY GO
patrick_vecchio
Sep. 27th, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
The money goes out of the students' pockets and into the book publishers' pockets, with the bookstore taking a nice slice too. It's disappointing—although I should have expected it—that the authors get ripped off too.
tanadariel
Sep. 27th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
I do my best to require cheap(er) books for students, but I am remarkably frustrated with department requirements...for instance, I am required to require a $100+ grammar activity book that most students will not read or use. Why not just a simple, small handbook in the $50 range that can be used for more than one course? I mean, I'm a grammar nerd and even I won't find use for every detail in that book. I can't believe that other instructors are using it cover-to-cover.

I still have my AP Stylebook, by the way. How does one lose such a valuable resource?
patrick_vecchio
Sep. 27th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
You're right: Grammar handbooks aren't exactly on the must-reading list for students. And you're right again when you say that even grammar nerds like us won't care about everything in those books. Instructors need to be realistic.

I'm using the Little, Brown Essentials Handbook in 110 this semester. I have a feeling it still cost around $40 or $50 (no more than that, I hope), but it's considerable cheaper than the full edition of LB. And I don't require a reader; they're typically much pricier than they should be.

I was delighted when the new AP Stylebook came out because I could bring my old one (2009) home. The JMC buys the stylebook for me, but I'm going to look into an electronic version when the next edition comes out.
sarahk809
Sep. 28th, 2011 08:52 am (UTC)
Nigel had the option of renting his texts for a huge savings. That way, I assume, the bookstores are assured that students will take better care of them.
Also, at NYU's bookstore, a lot of the course's shelves were empty except for a sign that said, "All texts for this course must be purchased in e-reader format."

patrick_vecchio
Sep. 28th, 2011 12:13 pm (UTC)
It's probably because I'm an old fart, but I couldn't rent a course textbook because I mark them up when I go through them: highlights, notes in the margins, underlining, etc.

Electronic texts will be fully upon us in five years or even less, I'm thinking. Production costs will be minimal (as opposed to buying all that paper and ink), so publishers will be able (or should be able) to lower the price to the students while getting even fatter margins out of it.
vivitalia
Sep. 28th, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
I've always had a huge problem paying full price for text books. I think I bought maybe two textbooks from the actual campus bookstore while at Bonas; usually I opted for half.com, amazon or a similar site. Typically, I could get away with a hundred or so for all of my books instead of one of them. It always boggled my mind when I saw students buying all of theirs at the bookstore for five or six times that much, at least. I wish there was some way students could be tipped off about that at orientation, since I think a lot don't really think about the textbook mark-up or that most of them (yes, even new editions) can be had for much, much cheaper online.

And I hear you on marking up my textbooks, pjv. Most of mine are all colorful, scribbled-over and dog-eared by semester's end. Full of personality.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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