Monday, August 20, 2007

Buying textbooks

Classes started this morning so I bought my books on Saturday. It's generally pretty painless since my scholarship covers up to $500 of books and supplies from the university bookstore. There have been semesters when the total for books alone exceeded that, and even when I personally don't have to pay for it, I resent that they charge eighty bucks for a used paperback. Our state legislature attempted to tackle the costs of textbooks, in part by requiring that profs sign an acknowledgment of the cost to students before they assign a text and requiring disclosure of any benefits they may receive. Pretty much every student I've talked to gets annoyed by the practice of continually coming out with new editions so students can't sell their books back and the next class has to buy brand new books. In some fields, it makes perfect sense; a class on molecular cell biology should incorporate the latest discoveries. In others, it only serves to line the publishers' pockets; Calculus I is Calculus I is Calculus I and a Dover paperback of a fifty year old text might serve just as well for a tenth of the cost.

This year there was a new wrinkle. Only two of my classes had books at the bookstore, but a third requires a subscription to online content instead. I can't use the book voucher system for the website so I have to pay for it myself then requisition a reimbursement.I know that I'm very lucky I don't have to pay and shouldn't grumble about the hassle of submitting the paperwork. So $230 for two books and $60 for the online thing could be worse, but it is still a lot of money for the folks who have to come up with the cash themselves.

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