The university is an expensive institution. Keeping teachers paid, faculties running, and maintaining a high level of education requires a lot of money. It’s no surprise that the university needs to guzzle up any source of income possible; which means things like a compulsory health plan, insanely priced parking, and all kinds of cleverly placed little fees are necessary if we want a university that can provide everything we’ve come to expect. But if you ask me, it would be nice if the university at least tried to pretend that it wasn’t a money-devouring black hole, willing to consume any source of dollars, any way possible.
A friend of mine once said that a pulse and a pocketbook is all you need to attend university, and he’s right. The university needs cash, and they’re not shy about picking you up by your ankles and shaking you upside down for your lunch money.
Textbooks are a perfect example of this. It’s a cliché, but textbooks are way too damn expensive. They’re almost humorously overpriced, often unnecessary, and have a horrible shelf life. Everyone hates paying for textbooks, and it’s because you feel like you’ve been robbed.
Does anyone actually believe that these piles of chopped up trees are really worth the 150 to 200 dollars we are paying for them? This year, my anthropology textbook was listed at eighty-five dollars at the U of R bookstore; it’s a good thing I was feeling cheap that day, because I later found the exact same book at the Golden Mile used book sale for three dollars.
Obviously, I don’t expect to regularly find textbooks on sale for three dollars, but the point is that other retailers clearly don’t place the same value on textbooks that university retailers do. Could this be because they’re not actually worth their hefty price tag to people who aren‘t being forced to buy them?
Adding to my textbook depression every semester is how unnecessary some of these books are. Nothing makes me want to rip my hair out more than when I shell out the cash for a textbook, after being told how necessary it is, and never using it. Most teachers provide more than adequate notes for the job, and any missing information can easily be researched online.
This is causing students to download e-book versions of their texts online, borrow from one another, desperately hunt for books at bargain sales, or simply refuse to buy.
Most of these books are garbage after one year. Different teachers rarely pick the same texts, unless you’re dealing with big intro classes. Even when they do, it’s almost always a “new” version. Oh sorry, you have the second edition? You actually need the 256th Western Canadian edition.
Personally, I think I’m done buying textbooks unless I’m sure that I will actually need it. I’m so sick of wasting hundreds of dollars on books that never get cracked open, have pathetic resale value, and contain information that can be found online.
If you are paying your own way through school I’d say take a pass this semester. Go to class, listen, take meticulous notes, review the material regularly, and you’ll be just fine.
Not to mention that you could probably buy a car with the money you’ll save.