Textbook prices force alternative solutions

MaryAnne Shults

Community college students in California enjoy having the lowest tuition of any state in the country: $20 per credit hour. According to the Community College School Guide, average annual tuition and fees cost a student $2,191 per year, which is more than 50 percent of what students in California pay. Before one gets giddy about all the money he or she is saving, the high cost of textbooks must be considered. The cost of books and supplies for the academic year does not vary much from two-year to four-year institutions, or from public to private colleges. A 2007 report published by the Chronicle of Higher Education showed that the expense for books and supplies rose from $801-$904 to $850-$942 for 2006-2007.

Not only are textbooks expensive, but students reselling their books are often shocked to discover that they can only get about 30 percent of the original cost back.

Other times, students can’t sell books back at all because textbook publishers have learned they can make more money by constantly putting out new editions of books, inhibiting anyone’s ability to resell. New editions may make sense for some subjects, but do students really need a new edition of the basics of psychology each semester?

There are alternatives to purchasing from the bookstore. One is to utilize and compare the many online sources. To purchase textbooks online, students should know the book’s full title, authors’ names, edition, and most importantly, the ISBN number. A few well-known online book resellers are Half.com (www.half.com), Amazon (www.amazon.com), and AbeBooks (www.abebooks.com). These companies act as a liaison for the entrepreneur eager to get a fair resale price for books.

Another popular Web site used by students seeking a way to reduce costs is Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), a network offering free classified advertisements. Users of social networks also set up groups specific to the purchase, resale, or exchange of college books.

Online textbook rental companies are another cost-cutting alternative. For a smaller fee, they offer digital books that are read within a Web browser.

Students must advocate for keeping costs down. Express your views to your professors and to your school’s administration, and utilize your student government so that all voices are heard. Contact your local legislator, as they too have the power to control the ever-increasing textbook expenses.

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