Booing From the Bleachers

Textbooks are too expensive. I bought an accounting book for $198.75 which will probably only be worth $60 at the end of semester. Unless there is a new edition—then it will be worth nothing. Because of the huge price disparity between collegiate textbooks and other books we could assume this as proof that the devoted academics who write and market said textbooks have equally large deficits of real-world writing and marketing values. Speculation aside, I still need these books now. Or, I could do like one of my previous roommates and refuse to buy any books, gambling that the professor will ignore the textbook. Once in a while this almost works, although friends get scarce at exam time when you need their books. The publishers’ argument is that the price needs to be higher because these books are resold so many times after initial purchase. In actuality, though, this doesn’t happen as often as they would have us believe; editions change so frequently that the books are obsolete within a year or two of printing. So perhaps the greater issue is that students—myself included, do not like using textbooks with 2007 in them when it is already 2009 and has been for several months. It reflects badly on a college to use outdated books, even if the only changes are a few dates. Is it worth a few hundred bucks a semester to see current dates in textbooks? And -to introduce an argument used by my philosophy teacher, is the content of these books really worth learning if it will be outdated in a few months? Ironically, books by Plato, Mill, and Smith all cost around $5 each, the Bible is often free, and these books are still highly valued after hundreds of years. What I want to believe is that most students study to pass the exam, not to learn the course content. We’re willing to pay vast sums of money to suppose learning in elitist colleges. So, yes, throw us expensive textbooks that we clamber to own but will never read. They must be dated—outdated never.

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