The terrible, troubling textbooks

| August 25, 2013

Ah, a new year is upon us at the UNC Charlotte. Students are dropping classes because their course descriptions failed to tell the whole story. And many students are picking up their boxes of books from our local bookstore.

For me, the latter has to be the most annoying part of the college process. I have purchased plenty of textbooks throughout my years at UNC Charlotte.

I used to login to 49erExpress to use the convenient ‘Order Books online for your Class Schedule’ option and buy all of the required (but never recommended) textbooks from our convenient Barnes & Noble on campus. I’ve come to learn that the vast majority of the time, these books can be found cheaper elsewhere. Amazon, Chegg and other places usually have textbooks at much better prices than our campus Barnes & Noble, according to the SlugBooks price comparison website.

“Don’t buy books on campus” is a bit of advice that is passed down to freshmen and sophomores from their older peers. In fact, I witnessed a friend of mine recently tell this to a sophomore transfer.

I now only buy books on campus when there is that rare occasion when a book is the same price everywhere. Andrea Rodriguez, a senior at UNC Charlotte said, “I only buy from Amazon because it’s cheaper than on campus. I haven’t bought books on campus since my freshman year.”

An informal survey of my group of friends found that people only buy books on campus when they have no other choice. Of course, high costs are not the only problem with the textbook business.

It is not uncommon to rent textbooks instead of purchasing them. On the surface, this is a great option that saves money. However, at the end of the semester, the renter has neither the book nor the money. Renting textbooks allows students to get their books cheaper in the beginning, but they come out with nothing in the end. Because of that, I have made the decision to only rent books that are already extremely cheap, unless I think a particular book is worth keeping. After all, why should I rent a very expensive book at a price that’s still high, only to return it at the end of the semester?

This leads me to my last, and possibly greatest, annoyance with the textbook business. Most of us have bought a very expensive book, which we used to get a hard-earned high grade in class and then decided to sell it for some cold, hard cash. But that very expensive book turns out to only be worth a measly few dollars. If you’re lucky, you can get enough money back to buy yourself a nice dinner.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll hear the dreaded words, “Sorry, we’re not taking this book because we’ve switched to a newer edition.”

Hearing those words leaves you only one option, which is self-selling. Self-selling isn’t very desirable because you will likely end up in a situation where you have little choice, much like the normal process. What makes selling books so much more annoying is that it doesn’t matter where the book was bought. Maybe the book was $200 on campus and $150 on Amazon. Either way, you would be lucky to get more than $25, and that is a shame.

All in all, textbook prices are terribly expensive. These high prices force students into options that aren’t really fair to them, with no viable solution on the horizon.

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