The battle against buying textbooks
My ongoing battle against buying textbooks dates back to my first week at Columbia. I strolled into Book Culture as a happy, innocent first year armed with a list of four required textbooks.
I left shell-shocked and scarred for life, over $400 lighter. My most worthy opponent? Calculus Early Transcendentals by James Stewart, for a whopping $220.
Yes, you read that right, $220 for a book. I don’t think I would pay that much for a signed copy of the Iliad.
Since then, it’s been the same story every semester. I look for flyers for used textbooks, scout Amazon, and assess whether I can get away with simply not buying the books. After one or two weeks of classes this process culminates in a walk of shame to Book Culture to buy the absolutely necessary books (which continue to cost a small fortune).
It’s not that I’m against buying textbooks, and in many cases I find them a lot more useful than the professor. It’s just tough having to spend money—enough to buy a HiFi surround sound system for my room—on books.
I am aware of my allies in this battle, textbook rental services, e-books, and the like, but I’m not a fan. As a scribbler/doodler/highlighter, renting or downloading aren’t really options for me. Renting also means you miss out on the extra $200 dollars you can make by selling your old books at the start of the next semester (forgetting about the $600 dollars you already spent on them).
But this year I encountered an interesting plot twist to the semi-annual battle: One of my professors required a book he wrote himself. Is that legal? I’m not sure what percentage of revenue the author receives, but the book costs $25 at Book Culture, and there are about 200 students in the class. In my book, that amounts to a healthy bonus.
Moreover, the book reads like it was attacked by a thesaurus on steroids, and I doubt anyone besides his students has willingly bought it. If the professor were a leading expert in the field I would gladly buy his book, but this guy doesn’t even exist on Wikipedia or WikiCU (and he doesn’t even have his own CULPA page—impostor alert?).
Maybe Columbia can subsidize the most valuable textbooks to make the trip to Book Culture or the CU Bookstore a little less dreadful.
Jan Leibbrandt is a sophomore who hopes that Rhea Sen/ Birva Patel hadn’t bought her course books yet.
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