In addition to soaring tuition costs, student bank accounts have another burden to bear: textbooks. Buying textbooks is essential to passing classes, but outrageous price tags often put students between a rock and a hardcover book. With the release of online textbooks and new editions every year, students are better off sticking to the secondhand bookstore to save money.
Textbooks are a large part of any college experience, both in the financial and academic sense. Students caught between these paradigms, cash and education, are often forced to make decisions that sacrifice one for the other. The cost of a semester’s worth of textbooks can mean the difference between study time and overtime for a working student. And if students choose not to buy the text, they may soon find themselves lost and quickly heading down a slippery slope.
I do not think textbooks should be creating such a huge dilemma in students’ lives. It is ridiculous that simply buying the required texts for a semester can set you back as much as a month’s rent and food. In addition, textbook companies such as Pearson often release new editions of the same book every year, effectively destroying their only competition in the market — the secondhand bookstore. And secondhand books may be the poor college student’s last salvation. The Texas State bookstore, for example, buys back used books for as much as half of their original value. If students use services such as Amazon or Chegg, they can save even more on their textbooks. However, to the textbook industry, students saving money is the same as the company losing money.
Students may look to cheaper online editions and e-books to solve their problems, but these “solutions” often end up costing even more. By buying an online version of a text, students lose the buyback money they can gain at the end of the semester. In addition, textbook companies have begun to sell access to websites separate from their books. If professors require their students to use these websites, then students who thought they saved money by buying a used copy are then forced to throw away cash on access codes.
Professors have little incentive to assign cheaper textbooks. They get free instructor copies of whatever text they use, so why would it matter to them if students end up paying more? I think more professors should be aware of textbook costs and know that by requiring more expensive texts, they may have students who learn less because of financial constraints.
It is common knowledge college textbooks are expensive, but it seems few people are taking action to correct this problem. Online textbooks may seem like solutions, but they often cost students more and help big businesses to eliminate secondhand bookstores. Until textbook companies take some kind of action to make their texts more affordable, or professors begin to assign cheaper books, students are better off buying from the discount rack and selling back at the end of the semester.