Students Skip Buying Textbooks

A survey has found that many students have skipped buying textbooks for class:

In the survey, released on Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization, seven in 10 college students said they had not purchased a textbook at least once because they had found the price too high.

I hate to be cynical but I have to ask: do all of these students also not have a cell phone? My students mostly come from backgrounds described as “poor.” Yet, the number of iPhones, iPods and iPads in the classrooms is overwhelming. Is the price of the textbooks too high in the sense of “I have no money to buy it” or, rather, in the sense of “I’d much rather use the money to buy a new gadget and pay my cell phone bill”?

19 thoughts on “Students Skip Buying Textbooks”

  1. I agree that probably most students have gadgets that they don’t need. Now, in defense of cell phones, a lot of schools have gotten rid of telephone landlines in the dorms (mine is one of them), as a way to “cut” costs, so a cell phone is something that the student need if s/he wants to stay in touch with the outside world. Of course, a cheap cell phone would do. And regarding textbooks: I think it is a mix between “study is less important than having cool gadgets” and the fact that they really are incredibly expensive, and publishers update them unnecessarily every three years. That is why I avoid textbooks except in my language classes, where I have no other option.

    Like

    1. At my school, we have textbook rental where students can simply rent the textbooks very cheaply. This is a great service because in many disciplines, the textbooks are, indeed, extremely expensive. Profs in Business School also have been known to assign their own books as obligatory reading, which I consider to be bad form.

      Like

      1. Bad form?? I think it is unethical to the point of justifying immediate termination, unless the professor in question provides free access to the material, or else donates all royalties earned from sales to the students at his or her own institution to the institution itself.

        When I was an undergraduate student, I shared a textbook with another student in a few courses. Nowadays, I sometimes assign a text that i do not intend to use very much because I feel that it is a book that should be in a student’s personal library. I am offended when students sell back such books, as they are destroying their own education: I believe, along with some of my colleagues, that one should graduate from college with a body of knowledge, extensive thinking and analysis skills, snd a personal library.

        Like

        1. This is actually allowed in many schools. I don’t think it would be allowed at a state university like mine where we have regular ethics training that specifically prohibits instances of personal enrichment at the expense of the students.

          “I am offended when students sell back such books, as they are destroying their own education: I believe, along with some of my colleagues, that one should graduate from college with a body of knowledge, extensive thinking and analysis skills, snd a personal library.”

          -That’s how I always felt about my own studies. Still, many students nowadays don’t even think in such terms. 😦

          Like

  2. I buy textbooks, but I always go through places like Amazon and Ebay rather than the university’s bookstore, because it’s monumentally cheaper, something that costs $200 at the bookstore will be about $50 on Amazon.
    I bought my textbooks all from the bookstore the first year I was in college, because I was told you could return them at the end of the year for a refund. I didn’t realize that by “refund” they meant “buy textbooks that cost $500 and then get $10 back at the end of the year.”

    Like

  3. It might just be the wording on the survey–If I rented a textbook, I would probably say that I didn’t buy it because the price was too high, and get counted among the 7 of 10, even though I had the actual textbook for the course. Of course, there are other ways to get around buying the textbook as well.

    Like

  4. How much do text books for classes usually costs ?

    When I buy books for classes, a 60€ pricetag is what I would consider hefty.

    Like

      1. oO what.

        What kind of book is that ?! Also, what kind of professor would promote something like that ? I mean isn’t the same knowledge also available in normal-priced books ?

        Like

  5. I must admit that textbooks that cost $100 to $250 are out of my league. The primary factor in choosing textbooks by my friends in the Spanish department of the local university is cost for students. OTOH, I buy any textbook that I think will be valuable, usually on Amazon or Ebay. One friend of mine photocopies poems and short stories for her students rather than have them buy books.

    At the University of Virginia I took a senior/1st year graduate level seminar entitled “Western Impact on Africa”. The hoary old professor, who was the best exponent of the peripatetic method I have ever seen, began the class by saying that the single copy of a text on South Africa was on reserve in the library, the text on West Africa was available at the college bookstore and he would lecture on East Africa.

    He immediately began his lecture on the Portuguese search for the Court of Prester John in what is now Ethiopia in the early 16th Century. The next day, we all went to the bookstore and bought the book on West Africa. A couple weeks later someone asked if anyone had read the reserve book in the library. One woman said that she had read the first 80 pages, but that she found it very difficult, a very poor translation from Afrikaans, and that she thought the author was completely off base. So, no one else bothered to look at the book. After all, we were enthralled by our professor’s fascinating lectures and could compare them with the book on West Africa.

    The only graded item was the final exam: “Compare the lectures on East Africa with the books on West Africa and South Africa.” The woman who said she had read 80 pages of the book on South Africa, got a B. Everyone else got an F. You could hear the gnashing of teeth and cries of outrage of the graduate students who received F’s. After all, a grad student couldn’t get lower than a C they said, because that was failing for them. Due to the vociferous complaints to the administration of one grad student, a new test was administered. “You are in your Land Rover at 4pm on August 1st on the Kenya / Tanganyika border (this was before the unification with Zanzibar). You approach a fork in the road which points to a Catholic mission in one direction and an Anglican mission in the other. Which way do you go and why?” I got an A this time and the vociferous complainant received her C.

    Reading the textbook is often a good idea.

    Like

    1. ““You are in your Land Rover at 4pm on August 1st on the Kenya / Tanganyika border (this was before the unification with Zanzibar). You approach a fork in the road which points to a Catholic mission in one direction and an Anglican mission in the other. Which way do you go and why?” ”

      -I’m now dying to know what the answer is because I have absolutely no idea. 🙂 My ignorance is daunting.

      Like

      1. The answer required you to understand the complete environment and the prof. Monsoon season is starting and the rains start in the late afternoon. You have to seek shelter. The Catholic missions were very well organized and clean with excellent food and drink. The Anglican missions were poorly organized, not nearly as clean and the food and drink (if you could call it that) left much to be desired. Have you ever had English food? The final item to understand is that Ed (the prof) was an alcoholic and the Anglican missions were dry.

        Like

        1. This is absolutely hilarious. 🙂

          As for the English food, as much as I love the country, I have to agree that the food is. . . sad.

          Maybe I need to blog about how I visited Great Britain as a Soviet kid.

          Like

          1. That must have been quite an experience. My mother lived in the Midlands for 10 years and she swore that the only edible English food was fish & chips wrapped in newspaper or ethnic restaurants of Indian/Pakistani or Chinese persuasion. I actually had an excellent shepard’s pie at an isolated crossroads pub while being shown around by a local. But overall, English food made me yearn to be in Scotland with a dish of haggis.

            Like

  6. Some medical students spend most of their study time on internet-based review sites and wikipedia. The concept of buying a dead tree is somewhat old-fashioned to them. The faculty provide syllabi for their lectures well ahead of time, and a central curriculum office gets groups of syllabi printed, bound, and distributed every few months.

    I get my personal textbooks (highly expensive medical reference books with high-quality color photographs) from Amazon if I buy the text more than 6 months to a year after release.

    Like

  7. Mais oui, that is what it means. (“Do not choose” vs. “cannot.” I have students who are juniors with at 3.2 average and mine is the first course in which, they realize, they must have the book.)

    i am so not worried about this problem. They use those cell phones to take pictures of other students’ books, I know. What I am tired of is, their use of their children as excuses not to come to class / do work. For every person who wants to pass on nothing because they have a baby, there are 8 who try to pass on their own steam and also have babies they do not even tell me about.

    Like

    1. Children is one thing. Dying grandmas is another. I always know that poor old ladies will start dropping off like flies at around the midterm season. Maybe I should save a few lives and stop offering a midterm exam.

      Like

  8. I agree that textbooks are ridiculously expensive and all but the basic texts are out of date very quickly in my field, making the newest edition a must. This precludes second hand books in many cases. However, I think that it is mostly up to the University library to keep books available for review. Photocopying of relevant chapters is cheap and easy.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.