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EDITORIAL: How to stay smart during textbook season


It’s about that time when students at IU are returning to Bloomington in preparation for the spring semester. 

There is no secret that any level of higher education is costly — but at what point do auxiliary costs such as supplies, cost of living, food plans, and, most importantly, required textbooks become huge roadblocks for education?

The editorial board realizes that textbook prices are unnecessarily gutting students who are only trying to get an education. It’s a penalty fine for following the syllabus. 

The most irritating point about the cost of textbooks is that there is no aspect of textbook pricing that can be actually justified. Publishers in academia are not looking to attract customers to secure their profits. They know that no matter how pricey they make basic algebra texts, students who take algebra will have no choice but to buy the product. 

Textbooks are not like novels. They have such a permanent customer base that they don’t have to be worried about competitors' prices. Textbook publishers can choose to only make a hardcover edition, because they do not need to make their book accessible to more than one demographic. Of course Nicholas Sparks and his publishers create paperback, and more customers on a budget will buy them and they’re cheaper to produce. 

By creating affordable options it would increase sales numbers. 

Textbook sales stay stable no matter what because those students will always buy those books. They quite literally have no choice. 

However, while purchasing a Sparks novel is hardly ever required in academia, your biology textbook might be. The specific book, potentially only available from your university bookstore, only created for your university specifically, will be literally the only option, and if you need it, you need it. That means if that course material is $180, you are paying $180 or you are not going to do well in that class. 

Textbooks use professors to generate their customer base, and they do a really swell job of it.

While renting is a cheaper option, rentals for certain required texts can still be as costly as $70-90 for the semester. Online vendors such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon help combat the cost somewhat, but you’ll seldom see 50 percent off sales. 

And if you decide to pay an upfront cost with hopes of reselling and making your money back — good luck, Charlie. Book places in terms of buying back textbooks operate really similarly to any pawn shop, Plato’s Closet or GameStop. 

Professors should be more cognizant of varying levels of privilege in their students, thus coordinating their materials to be accessible with as little stress as possible. 

Some helpful tips and tricks to navigating textbook prices are checking the university’s library catalog to see if any of your required readings are available to borrow. Usually the library is free of charge, or at least includes your library fee in tuition, which helps mitigate the number of books you absolutely need to buy. 

Another trick is to ask around. Ask your fellow classmates who have books if you can scan the readings or borrow it when they’re finished. Usually people are pretty friendly about this because they know how expensive the book was firsthand.

If there are circumstances where you have zero means of purchasing a required textbook, do not feel embarrassed to let your professor know! College is expensive and everyone knows it, so do not feel bad about asking for help if you need it. Typically the professor will have an extra copy or two for instances like these, and you will never know if you fail to ask! 

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