"In theory, students can sell their books back to the bookstore at the end of
the semester and get about half their money back"Right. And
according to Yogi, "In theory there is no difference between theory and
practice. In practice, there is." or something to that effect.BTW, I
don't know how it is on other campuses, and I don't know the details of how it
works here, but the bookstore at BYU is something of an autonomous entity that
cooperates with the school. It does its own hiring and management, and makes its
own profits. But the school is not funded by those sales. I don't know what the
school does get out of it, but the staff tells me the cost of the books has
nothing to do with funding the departments that require them for class. Yes,
sometimes a professor has authored a book and requires it to be bought, but that
is between him and the publisher, not the school per se. Whatever. I still agree
that it is quite the racket.
If I ever attended college again I would buy the second to last edition of the
text books from Amazon or Ebay. They really don't change much with new editions
and you can always copy the book assignments (problems) from other class mates.
Then you can keep the book for future reference without feeling ripped off.
Many classes rarely refer to the books anyway. In my senior year I went through
several classes without purchasing the books. My grades didn't suffer and
neither did my pocketbook.
Here is a kicker for all of you. I had a professor write a novel for our Music
101 class. It had 0 educational value. It was a love story between a guy and a
music major. The problem was that it had tear out worksheets in it and he would
not take photocopies of the worksheets. You had to pay 40.00 for this book
(this was 10 years ago) and could not return it at all. The class probably had
150 students in it a semester. That professor was brining in the $$$$ with this
I'm really glad that you wrote this article, I just wrote a paper in class
touching on the same subject. It's frustrating enough working, going to school,
and paying tuition. Especially when you can almost spend a whole paycheck on
books alone. How can we as students have a say over the price of text books when
we dont even have any institutionalized way to exert our own market power? Why
do we need so many editions of the same book? How drastically does the Spanish
language change every few years so that it requires an 'overhaul' in regards to
the textbooks? Students just need to boycott one college and university at a
time, because without us, none of them would be making money in the first place.
Never really thought of Doug's column as being a reporter from a journalistic
standpoint. Most of the time he is on the lite-side and I don't think this
column is any different. However, sometimes when we get a little
too close to the true with humor it tends to cause offense. If you were
offended, sorry, the rest of us will recognize that this is now a subject that
can't be discussed in our overly-PC society.Thanks Doug for
reminding all of us how much we hated paying for the books that were rarely used
and over-priced. I look at my office shelves and see many of those that I
refused to take the pitance offered during the buy-back. I figured that in a
real crisis it might at least offer an hours worth of heat or serve as
Universities use to be the place for higher learning and education. Along the
way, they forgot what they were supposed to be and became a place to make money.
From the bookstores, to the "student fees", to the research grants, it is all
about money, not the students. Universities now offer stupid degrees that make
no sense and offer very little to the collective population as a whole. Why
should I pay thousands of dollars each year to be taught by a teachers assistant
who mearly is a student a year or two a head of me. It is a racket!!!
Doug,I typically enjoy your columns, but I have to take issue with
today's. Using anecdotal information to tell a story is fine. However,
if your are using anecdotes to cast aspersions at individuals or even an
industry, an honest journalist would also include information that was as
objective as possible, as well as comments from the individual or industry
being attacked. If you are going to use subjective information from one side,
you should also use it for the other.You might have answered
the following questions: Who makes money on textbooks, and how much? How
do these margins compare to similar industries? (At what margin does
something become "one big rip-off"?) What does it cost to print a high
quality text book in (often) very low quantities? How much should a
professor make for spending months or years writing about knowledge gained
through a career's work? What is education worth? (Is the knowledge
gained from a $120 textbook worth four times as much as that from a $30
novel?) What is information worth? (When was the last time you sold back
your used software?) Why is the internet sometimes so much cheaper?
(Hint: It has almost nothing to do with margins.) Etcetera.If it is any consolation, an opinion like yours appears about once a
year in just about every college paper in the country.Remember
that the less experienced public actually believe much of what they read on a
subject. I know that I have often believed what you have written on
topics with which I was less familiar. That gives you a tremendous
responsibility. Please save opinions for the proper section of the
paper.Thank you,Eric Laker
It was the same when my dad went to the U. It was the same when I went to the U.
I have degrees in geology and engineering. The books were very expensive. It
will always be so. Text books are very expensive to produce and distribute and
there are a lot of people out there with advanced degrees writing new text books
because they have nothing else to do. It a very lucrative business because of
the captive audience. It won't change until the students refuse to by the
expensive books (how about protesting that instead of George Bush). I got by in
several classes using earlier editions of the required text book. In other
classes I never bought the book at all and either researched topics at the
library or bought textbooks on the same subject by a different author.If the universities and the publishing companies were interested in cutting
costs for students they'd produce the textbooks in digital format. But that
would cut out the printers, the teamsters, the bookstore, and the university
from the $$$ equation.There are too many people with university
degrees anyway. The BS degree has become the new high school diploma. My advice
to 18 year olds is to learn a trade. You'll likely make more money in your
lifetime and you'll be a producing member of society instead of some textbook
writing pHD whose lifework will be old news next quarter.
Great article. This is one of the biggest and longest lasting scams in all of
education. It's meant to pad the meager salaries of the poor professors. I
can't imagine only getting paid $80K or more per year to teach for 12 hours per
week. The rest of the time they can do meaningless studies and research. So
they get paid their salaries while they write these over priced textbooks. Right on, Doug! The more this gets talked about, the more chance there
is of influencing a change.
StenarWhat "your friend" Jessica did is illegal at best and immoral
at worst. No different than if she had gone into the store and shoplifted the
book. Unreasonable prices on textbooks is not a justification for stealing
them."Beat the Bookstore" can save you a few bucks on books. The
best option is to buy online, as long as you end up with the correct edition and
can get the book soon enough.Students need to develop their own
network of selling used books.
My friend Jessica used to photocopy her textbooks and then return them to the
bookstore. It was actually cheaper to pay for all the photocopies than the $200
for her civil engineering books.