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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » College Texbook Costs [Vent]

   
Author Topic: College Texbook Costs [Vent]
Belle
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[Wall Bash]

It's not enough that I have to scramble like mad to get together enough money to pay tuition, but now I have to come up with several additional hundreds of dollars for textbooks. At the same time I'm buying school supplies for four kids.

My aunt is in grad school getting her Master's of Public Health and the most expensive book she's had to buy so far was $350.

My highest price to date is $85. I try to buy used, but I seem to have the good fortune that every time I sign up for a class, they switch to a new textbook so there are no used copies in the bookstore. And, they don't release the book list for the course in enough time for me to do much advance shopping on the internet.

UAB also thinks it's funny not to tell you where your classes are going to be until about a week before class starts, so when you're making your schedule you have no idea if the classes are in the same building or 9 blocks away. UAB is an urban campus, and very spread out, and there's only fifteen minutes in between classes.

[Wall Bash]

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy, eh?

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kojabu
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It's really annoying when they keep coming out with "new" editions when all they change is like a word, but then you can't sell the textbooks back and you have to buy completely new books. I think they're out to get us.
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mr_porteiro_head
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What's anoying is when the professors force you to buy their own book at inflated costs.
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kojabu
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
What's anoying is when the professors force you to buy their own book at inflated costs.

Esp when it's not a good book.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Nail. Head.
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Sweet William
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What's anoying is when the professors force you to buy their own book at inflated costs.

My undergraduate finance class was that way. The professor would not allow the bookstore to sell his book used, so everyone had to buy new, and then of course you couldn't sell it back to the bookstore.

It was not a big hardback book, but still, seemed a tad greedy to me.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Another annoyance is when you have to buy expensive "packets" at the bookstore, because you can never buy them new.

What makes this worse is that some bookstores allow the instructor to name a mark-up that the bookstore shares with the instructor. The instructor can artifically inflate it by $20, and he'll get $10 of that straight into his pocket. The instructor wins. The bookstore wins. The students lose :angry:. This doesn't happen at all universities, but it does at some.

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kojabu
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I took intro psych here and the class was huge, the largest live lecture in the US, if not the world (about 1500 students - how many actually attended is beyond me). Anyway, the professor had everyone buy a book he had written called Power Sleep, most of which had nothing to do with the section on sleep. He claimed he didn't get any of the money from it, but if even half the class bought the book every year, that's a lot of those books sold.
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Megan
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quote:
Another annoyance is when you have to buy expensive "packets" at the bookstore, because you can never buy them new.
I will say this: packets are frequently a MUCH cheaper alternative to asking students to photocopy things all semester--cheaper and more certain, since half the students won't bother to photocopy it if you tell them to, which leaves that half a) having no clue what's going on in class, and/or b) using their classmates' copies and disrupting class.

Plus, some people (like me) use course packets to make up for the fact that for some courses, none of the current textbooks are even close to ideal. We use course packets of material we've gathered or created ourselves, which, barring copyright issues, means all you end up having to pay is printing costs.

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advice for robots
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I'm facing a class this fall that requires no less than 5 textbooks, and I'm betting they're all $40 or more. And we probably won't read more than 10% of any of them. And then they'll sit on my bookshelf for the rest of eternity. Grrr.
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Glenn Arnold
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While we're bitching, I'll throw in a complaint about the WEIGHT of books. Paper is sold by weight, and paper manufacturers have been steadily increasing the amount of clays in the paper.

They claim that it improves surface quality, which is why they added it historically, but nowadays they actually get it inside the paper fibers, specifically because it's cheaper than wood pulp and increases the profit. It also makes the paper thinner for the same weight, so 20 lb. bond is wimpy compared to 20 years ago.

Anyway, that's why books are so heavy nowadays.

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Narnia
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Belle, the website for you is www.campusbooks.com

You enter in the book you need and it finds it on a zillion sites and compares the prices for you right then and there. Then you can pick which site to buy the book from. My favorites are ebay's half.com and amazon.com marketplace. I've also bought used from Barnes and Noble.

What's beautiful about those sites is that I just made $150 selling 6 of my 7 highly priced grad school text books. I probably spent almost 300 on all of them together, but it was nice to make some of the money back. [Smile]

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sarahdipity
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I love this site:
http://www.bookfinder.com/

Hopefully this will help all of you looking for cheap books.

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Narnia
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Another one of my tricks (yes I'm tricksy) is to not buy the books until I go to the first class. There have been times when I found out that the book was just a supplement, or even optional, and I had already purchased it. There have also been times when I realized that we wouldn't be tested or even discussing out of the book ($93 book!!) so I didn't even buy it. Got an A in the class.

Megan, all hail to packets. I love professors that have the packet available at the local copy place (then you're only paying for the copie/paper) for you to pick up. You rarely spend more than $15 for a thick one. And they're lighter. [Smile]

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mackillian
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I unfortunately had to retain all the books from my 18th century lit course. [Mad]

I remember that with some of the more horrid books, when the bookstore said, "We can't buy that back."

I'd ask, "Can you just TAKE it from me? Please?"

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kojabu
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I only minded buying a course packet once, because it cost about $130 and couldn't be returned so you had better be sure you were going to stay in the class otherwise you would be out quite a lot of money. Yea it was cheaper than photocopying everything, but it was also massive and not bound (because it was too big).
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Narnia
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mack, have you tried to sell your books online? You can get so much more for them than any bookstore will give you...unless you've already gotten rid of them in your anger. [Wink]
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Farmgirl
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My son has made it through three years of college with basically not buying books .

Oh sure, there is a book list. He is so tight with his money he refuses to buy them. He will just listen in class, takes lots of notes and if something comes up that REALLY needs the book, sometimes he can get the professor, or another student, to loan him their book long enough for him to photocopy or read the current section, then give it back.

He has only bought one or two, I think, in the three years. They were math books, where he had to have them for the homework problems.

I thought it was crazy, and every year I look up his booklist on different discount textbook web sites to find him a good deal, but he always says "let me take the class a few days and see if the book is really necessary". I'm amazed how often he gets by without it at all.

Farmgirl

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Jhai
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Here's my suggestion:
Buy the books from the bookstore, and use them until the books you purchase online come. Just make sure you return the books within the deadline (most bookstores will only give 3/4 refund or 1/2 refund after a certain date). And, of course, take good care of the books.

I really like www.half.com for textbook buying, although you have to sometimes price compare with amazon used or other places.

If your school gives you a certain amount of free copying, consider spending the hour to copy those smaller - yet still expensive - books.

Another suggestion is to simply talk to the bookstore people before textbooks go on sale. They have to get those book lists in order to order them... Often the people who work at the bookstore are college students like you, and will be willing to tell you the list of books for your classes.

I really hate my bookstore. Not the employees working there, but the bookstore itself. Everything is extremely overpriced- $7.50 for a notebook that costs $4 at Walmart! $15 for a $6 water bottle with the school logo on it! Only the freshman shop there.

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Katarain
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I'd like to echo those who said not to buy the books until going to one or a few classes. Another benefit is that you get the syllabus and can space out when you buy or borrow books. Instead of buying a bunch of books all at once, get the books when you'll actually be using them. This might include buying them, hopefully at a reduced rate at a used book store or online, or checking them out of your local library. (Libraries don't usually carry textbooks, of course, but they do carry lots of other books.)

I also avoid the campus bookstore if I can help it. Where I used to live, there's a great Used Book store where they take textbooks, too. You can often find the books you need at a mere fraction of what they cost in the bookstore.

I've never done this personally, but you can trade books with another student sometimes if you can find someone who is going into your classes the next semester and vice versa. You can get really complicated and do 3 and 4 way trades... Enterprising young students might already have set up some sort of system like that. I always wanted to.

Check the syllabus closely for how much of a book you'll be reading. Shockingly, sometimes it's very little. Sometimes, books are put on reserve at the library, specifically for those who don't want to buy the books. Unfortunately, the instructors can't or don't tell you that until the first day of class.

In all my years of school, I have had ONE professor get mad at us for not having our text books on the first day, and that was in graduate school. Most of us didn't have our books, and we figured he'd just have to get over it. And he did. Big whiner. Most teachers on the first day, though, don't expect you to have the books yet.

-Katarain

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Narnia:
mack, have you tried to sell your books online? You can get so much more for them than any bookstore will give you...unless you've already gotten rid of them in your anger. [Wink]

This is a beautiful thing. Ruth and I had a few expensive books that the bookstore wouldn't take back (because they had been shrink-wrapped or whatever), so I sold them on Amazon. I think I made $140 from just three books. Granted, that's a lot less than what we paid for them, but I was just happy to get some money out of them.
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Toretha
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Since a lot of the time they don’t really change books between editions, I often just get the last edition of the book, and then ask a classmate if I can borrow their book to photocopy the chapter or so that may be missing if there is an extra chapter that we need to read in the newer edition. It’s saved me so much money, I’ve gotten a 95 dollar textbook for $6.50, and $6 of that was for the fast shipping. Also, if you’re taking classes based on old literature, and you’re not likely to need your book in class, or you have a laptop, Project Gutenberg rocks. Granted, as a philosophy major I can take more advantage of it that most majors, but…yeah, I’ve saved several hundred dollars by just reading my texts there instead. I have to do a bit of work to get the right sections to read, but considering how much you save…
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Jon Boy
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You've really got to be careful with that. Last semester I accidentally bought the previous version of one of my textbooks, and I bombed the first couple assignments because the exercises in the book had changed.
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Zeugma
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I foolishly bought books and course packets my first semester Freshman year. That was the last time. After that I used the library and the internet to find all the materials I needed. And literally, almost every single textbook I needed was owned by the library. I probably saved thousands of dollars. [Razz]
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Kiwi
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quote:
Originally posted by kojabu:
quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
What's anoying is when the professors force you to buy their own book at inflated costs.

Esp when it's not a good book.
I bought such a book last semester, and there were mistakes all through it. It was the hardest book ever to find anything in, and I discovered words I had thought weren't in the index were actually in there - in the wrong order. "Restraint" being after "Retirement" for example. What, don't people use alphabetical order anymore? Worse, the information was scattered throughout rather than one topic being in one chapter, and with the index being so crap, and the table of contents a waste of time, you basically never knew if you had all the information on the topic you needed without reading through the entire book first. A 1321 page BIG FAT HEAVY $150 useless book. And then we had an open book exam. Looking up stuff in an exam situation in a book like that != fun.

[Mad]

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littlemissattitude
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quote:
Originally posted by Narnia:
There have been times when I found out that the book was just a supplement, or even optional, and I had already purchased it. There have also been times when I realized that we wouldn't be tested or even discussing out of the book ($93 book!!)

You need to be careful about this, though, Narnia. I took a cultural anthropology class once, in which one of the books was "optional". It was listed this way on the syllabus (which is, by the way, supposed to be a binding contract between professor and students, at least in California) and the instructor said several times throughout the semester, as well as on the syllabus, that we would not be tested on the material in that book. Well, long story short, the final had a number of questions on it about material that was in that book, in only that book, and that hadn't been disucssed in class at all. When I complained about it, I was told to either shut up (actual quote, IIRC) or forfeit my right to take the final.

Oh, and instructor-compiled packets. All for them, as long as they bypass the bookstore. I had another cultural anthro class, this one on California Indians, and another class in psychophysiology, both taught by the same instructor. In both classes, he put together a packet of articles in place of a textbook, went down to Kinko's and had it reproduced at his expense and then sold them to us in class at his cost. I think one was about $10 and the other one something like $12 or $13. It seems to me he told us in the psych class that the book he would have used was going to cost close to $100. Works for me. [Smile]

Edited for stupid spelling error.

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everything_theory
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quote:
Buy the books from the bookstore, and use them until the books you purchase online come. Just make sure you return the books within the deadline (most bookstores will only give 3/4 refund or 1/2 refund after a certain date). And, of course, take good care of the books.

At my school, the books are bound in a magnetic seal of sorts. Once the seal is broken, the books are non-refundable/returnable unless you sell it the last week of school.

To sell books, I find it very useful to post a list of books you want to sell somewhere around the subject area of your school with prices just below the school's asking price for the same used book. You'll get a lot more money than you would if you sell it to your bookstore. (A $235 Calculus book was going to get me $23 if I sold it to the bookstore.)

At most schools, the library usually lends out all used textbooks for students who can't afford to buy them at that time, or at all. This has come in handy many times for me.

Thank goodness for financial aid and scholarships!!!

Oh, and iffff!!! I have iffs!! To get qualify for a fee waiver in the state of California, for one person, you have to make less than 13K a year... What kind of nonsense is that?!?! How can one live off 13K a year!?!? According to their charts I should be supporting a family of 6!! I can barely afford myself!

~Captain Earl

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Jaiden
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I got my "maybe" book list (if I decide to go to school in September).

$1500 for -one- semister. That means $3000 for the year.

$3000 on books!!! O_O

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pfresh85
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Books are way too expensive (although there are some reasons for this). In my 3 semesters of college so far (including this fall), I've spent $600, $500, and $360 respectively. Quite a bit of money for just a handful of books, most of which are small little paperbacks. Good thing I get a nice stipend from my school to cover those costs.
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fugu13
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It would be very hard to break into the college textbook market without a very large investment, but I've recently wondered if a no-frills textbook producer who focused on content could produce cheap textbooks for the high school market successfully. Ones similar to those used decades ago.

The main reason it would be easier is, there are fewer points of entry. Once you get approved by a state for use within that state (which is supposedly based on adequacy in most states, rather than being competitive), the local school districts will look at you, and lots of school districts are price strapped.

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Narnia
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As far as buying goes: I reiterate www.campusbooks.com This probably doesn't work for medical/law texts, (but it might) but I never EVER pay full price for text books. They compare prices on all the sites and show you from least expensive to most expensive. (Hint: always check on the Half.com price because they don't usually list the least expensive for some reason.)

As for selling books, I sold back 6 out of my 7 obnoxious grad school texts in less than a month when I posted them in July. Made about $200 on the lot (which is MUCH more than you'll ever get for them at a campus bookstore.) I posted on half.com (which is ebay) and amazon.com. I sold an equal number of books on each site, so I was glad I had listed them in both places.

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Jaiden
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Thanks Narnia but that website doesn't work for Canada [Smile]
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Hmm216
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WOW Narnia, that is MUCH more than you would get back on campus. Every time I try to sell books back they only offer 5 to 15 dollars (if anything) for a book I paid 60-150 for.
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Coccinelle
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This reminded me of my first two years of college when I was just taking basics. I had so little money to pay for books, that I would go to the bookstore and price the books for each professor and course. I would then proceed to schedule my classes around the cheapest textbooks. If they got a new science book in the fall, I'd wait to take it in the spring. I recall that I took philosophy as one of my credits instead of something else, maybe anthropology, because the book was $15 versus $60.
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fabbiankoal
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(Post removed by Janitor Blade. Textbook case of spam.)

[ September 06, 2012, 09:41 AM: Message edited by: JanitorBlade ]

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MattP
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Wow. Necromancy spam!
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Tinros
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And here I was wondering how Hatrack knew I went to the bookstore today, and spent almost $700 on books... Are the SPAMMERS watching me now?!
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Samprimary
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To be fair, educational textbooks remain almost if not more of a terrible scammy issue than they used to be.
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SteveRogers
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Maybe I wanted to know about the sweet deal on textbooks before it got removed! *crosses arms and sticks out tongue*
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Jeff C.
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I usually just torrent my textbooks or find them online somewhere. I've taken four classes in my masters program so far and I think I've paid about 50 bucks altogether for books. I refuse to give them more of my money when tuition is already so high.
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Belle
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My daughter is in her sophomore year at college and taking a British lit survey. She said the professor doesn't care what version textbook she has, as long as all the works are in there. We checked the anthology I bought seven years ago and even though it's three editions earlier than the one she's supposed to have, it has everything in it. Almost exactly the same.
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Teshi
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quote:
Megan, all hail to packets. I love professors that have the packet available at the local copy place (then you're only paying for the copie/paper) for you to pick up. You rarely spend more than $15 for a thick one.
Erm, when it comes to the packets, don't you have copyright laws for that?

In Canada, the vast majority of the cost of the packets is the copyright for each individual article included. That's why they sell you the packet-- photocopying the books is illegal according to law. The paper/binding itself costs no more than a couple of dollars, true, but the copyrights have to be bought individually by the university or the printer and the cost is then distributed throughout the number of students purchasing the packet.

I've never had to buy a ready-made large textbook. Everything I've studied has come with a packet, but certainly the copyright is included in the price.

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