A student staggers up to the bookstore checkout, arms overflowing with heavy textbooks and cumbersome supplies. Her eyes widen and her ears ring as the price scanner bings, bings, bings. Her trembling hand clutches a thin, worn-out wallet.
Then, the total flashes on a screen. She faints to the floor in one big clunk. Eventually revived by Public Safety and a therapy dog, the student drags her loaded shopping bags toward the exit, turning back to curse Barnes, Noble, Andrew J. and the inventor of movable type.
But the thing is, most of us are so blinded by our anger that we don’t realize that this problem is not the fault of the bookstore, the managers of Barnes & Noble, or even the university. The fault lies beyond their reach, so there’s no point in trying to pass it to them.
Overly inflated prices do not originate from the evil minds of Rider administrators or Barnes & Noble workers. If we had to trace its roots, they would lead to the minds of evil publishers. Books are expensive, but to an extent, college bookstores do not determine those prices. Point the fingers to the publishers who keep releasing new editions of books yearly, even if nothing has changed. A new calculus book is nearly $300, but how much has Calculus changed? The bookstore has to pay its workers, and our store’s prices are still the same, if not better, than other New Jersey schools.
For example, Rider’s bookstore carries the book Essential Cell Biology, 4th edition, for $155 before tax. Rutgers and Rowan, also owned by Barnes & Noble, sell the biology text for the same price. However, NJIT, owned by Follett, sell the same edition of the same book for $168.50. We think our store is more pricy, but Follett sells the book for more and they used to own our bookstore. The price increase is not very significant, but it exists nonetheless. If Rider students need to point their fingers, there’s no logical reasoning to point them here at home.
Of course, a perfect system does not exist anywhere, and students have a right to complain. But the switch to Barnes & Noble is not to blame. Even other items in the store, such as Rider branded T-shirts, still run near $25, about the same as they were before we changed vendors. Prices certainly sound ridiculous, but no more than they have in the past and no more than at other colleges.
Other important traits for students would be virtue and patience. Returning students remain frustrated with differences in the store and its procedures. While the irritation makes sense, it is important to remember that the switch from Follett to Barnes & Noble was fast, and much of the staff itself is new. Just as we need to adjust to a new semester, they need to adjust to new jobs and new management.
All of this information raises spirits, but doesn’t change the fact that publishers are still marketing these books at ridiculously high prices. For students struggling with the price tags, alternatives include other sources that sell books, such as Amazon or Chegg. Barnes & Noble College also offers a survey system where they ask students about their experience at their school’s bookstore. Participants are eligible for Barnes & Noble gift card drawings, and they earn points which eventually become redeemable, real money. Students can access this information at bncstudentpov.com.
Rider also has a new system that allows students with extra financial aid credits, or money, on their student accounts to use the leftover cash on books. For example, if I have an extra $300 in my account after paying tuition or if it is returned to me, I can use that money to buy textbooks in our bookstore. For low-income students receiving scholarships or financial aid, this lightens the burden of school costs significantly.
Another program that is not yet as clearly helpful is Rider’s new Textbook Reserve Program, which enables students to access textbooks from freshmen courses in the library. They are allowed to use the books for two hours in the library, and there is a limited selection of each book. This idea seems helpful for students, but in our opinion, it might hurt the education of some. Students will have to fight for resources, and if there’s only a single book but three students need to take it out, two will not learn what they need. They won’t be able to follow along in class, or study for more than two hours.
For example, the AP Stylebook is a journalist’s personal Bible, needed for every article in and out of class. But now students don’t even need to have one. Without it, writing, tests and exams will feel the loss as they will not learn AP style.
Professors, we know that you can’t change the publisher’s high costs and we understand that you only want to provide students with the best material possible. But please, remember us and remember our finances when choosing books. And students, when the prices overwhelm you, don’t just get angry. Look to those alternatives and protect your pocket. The bookstore is different in many ways, and right now, they’re adjusting. Don’t count them out yet, and don’t give them hell. Give them a chance.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 09/23/15 issue.