Editorial: Time to rethink book price, policy

For years, students have been buying textbooks from the bookstore and Web sites, often spending hundreds of dollars per semester in the process. Students have found new ways to take their textbook buying into their own hands.

Recently, a new Web site called Chegg.com has become the trend in acquiring textbooks. Chegg allows students to rent textbooks, as opposed to buying them, for much less. The Chegg process is simple enough. Pay an up-front fee for all of the necessary textbooks, and the books are shipped right out. At the end of the semester, simply print out the pre-paid shipping label, pack the books in the same box in which they were received, and take the box to any UPS shipping site. For every book rented, bought, sold or donated, the Web site promises to plant a tree. So along with saving money, students who rent through Chegg can feel environmentally friendly. Even better, they can get what most students want: the textbooks they need for only the time they are needed. To the disappointment of some professors, it is  rare for students to keep a textbook after a course is done, unless they can’t sell it back.

Though students are upset about the high prices of books, the amount spent on books only makes up a small percentage of the total bill per semester.

But this isn’t the first time that there has been an alternative to going to the Rider bookstore. Previously, students have searched online and in other stores for the cheapest prices. The main reason for this is that bookstore prices for new books, mainly driven by the publishers, are verging on ridiculous, and sometimes used books are not available. The limited number of used books could be a result of three things: either they are selling out quickly, students don’t sell their books back to the bookstore or certain books have to be bought new. Take, for example, foreign language textbooks, that have to be bought new so that students can get an access code to do the exercises online. Requiring students to buy these new books essentially forces them to pay huge amounts of money.

The bookstore is also not always the best place to get the money back for textbooks after they have been used. At the end of the semester, the bookstore promises to buy back textbooks for a good price, in cash. But the amounts that the bookstore offers for the books pale in comparison to how much the books were originally bought for. Usually, books are bought back for less than half of what they originally cost. A book that was around $80 might be bought back for about $30. Also, the bookstore won’t buy back all books, like books that have new editions coming out, books that were originally sold in shrink wrap or workbooks that have all the pages filled out.

Even though students need textbooks to get through college, those books don’t have to cost a fortune. What happened to the good old days of high school, when teachers assigned each student his or her own book, for free, and if any damage was done to that book at the end of the year, the student had to pay a fine? Students are responsible enough to take good care of their textbooks, especially if the threat of paying a fine is always hanging over their heads.

But something that really doesn’t help our financial situations is professors assigning textbooks for a class and then not using them throughout the semester. If we have to buy these expensive textbooks, shouldn’t it be necessary to use them? In many classes, students are assigned to read certain chapters of books, but then the professors make PowerPoints with all the notes from the chapters and go over them in class. Then, tests are based on the PowerPoint notes. So what is the point of buying an expensive book when it’s really not necessary?

Students now have options when it comes to getting the textbooks required for classes, if they choose to get them at all. Sometimes, if students feel that the textbooks aren’t needed for the courses, they just won’t buy them. And with the effort it takes to find the best price, it’s hard to blame them.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News editorial board and is written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.

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