Well, it’s that time of year again. College students across the country are forking out hundreds of dollars on fall semester source material. It’s one of those things that we are told are necessary evils. But are they? I’m investing in the advancement of my own knowledge, right? WRONG. After three years of navigating the tumultuous waters of textbook buying, here’s what I’ve decided.
Don’t buy textbooks.
Let me explain. Of course there are cases where boycotting is unrealistic. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes you just can’t make Dean’s list without the 14th Edition of Anatomy and Physiology. However, many students continually make the mistake of purchasing something ‘required’ for a course even before the first day of classes. Trust me, there is a difference between being prepared, and being foolish. Publishing companies actively work against their target market, and for their profit margins. They will put out new editions each year to render the previous obsolete and useless to all the aspiring geographers, doctors, and psychologists of the world. This way, they ensure constant cash flow by creating the demand. Benevolently, many professors recognize this travesty of a business model and will allow students to purchase old editions and save a buck. The problem is, even with this break, the bill still ends up being astronomical for most students. So here are some coping strategies I’ve honed through the years:
- WAIT until you’re sure the text is absolutely needed for the class (because it probably isn’t).
- Offer to share a copy with a classmate / friend.
- Ask if the professor will xerox the readings for you.
- Borrow from a library.
- Hold off a few weeks until your refund check comes in.
If push comes to shove and you have to buy one, use resources like Chegg, SlugBooks, and Amazon to look for discounts and used copies. The unfortunate reality is that we live in a capitalist society where profits are prioritized over people. While there’s not much we can do to change that, there are ways around it. Invest in your education, but don’t be persuaded by our culture that you need the newest and best no matter the cost. Look at it this way: a lot of used books highlight the best parts anyway. Work smarter, not harder. And don’t even get me started on that Pearson nonsense.