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Author Topic: College Textbooks costs are making me sick
Belle
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I almost feel physically ill. I just got back from the bookstore. And I'm not done - I still have one more book to buy because it was out of stock.

Y'all, this is getting crazy. Every semester my cost for books goes up, and this semester I even had one class that didn't require a book. I buy used every chance I can. I usually check prices online but buying them locally seems to work out just as well, except for cases where the professor is using an older edition or a book that is out of print. Then you can snap one up cheap. But those instances are rare.

I do everything I can to lower my cost but it still is getting ridiculous. The prices for paperback books just amazes me. I would feel better, I think, if the books were hardback and of good quality but usually they're not. Last semester I had a "special edition" that I paid over $100 for and it was just photocopies of chapters from other books - it was so poorly put together and bound that it fell apart around the midterm. It's so irritating! [Mad] [Wall Bash] [Mad]

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ketchupqueen
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I feel for you. That's a big part of why collegs is soooo expensive, isn't it? [Frown]
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pooka
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It's a small part, but a ticking off part nonetheless.
quote:
Last semester I had a "special edition" that I paid over $100 for and it was just photocopies of chapters from other books
[Mad]
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Belle
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quote:
I feel for you. That's a big part of why collegs is soooo expensive, isn't it?
Tuition and fees are still substantially more than books, of course, but it definitely doesn't help.

I don't want to complain too much, because some people don't have the opportunity to come to college at all, but it's more the inflated prices that bugs me than the total cost itself. The books are not worth what students are being charged, and that is very frustrating.

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erosomniac
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In planning my return to higher education, I've discovered that my book costs, for any given quarter, are about 1/3 of my tuition costs. That's pretty ridiculous.
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dkw
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It's not just textbooks, though. All books are getting ridiculously expensive. I was just looking at some Dr. Suess books on Sunday and I couldn't believe how much they cost.
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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
quote:
I feel for you. That's a big part of why collegs is soooo expensive, isn't it?
Tuition and fees are still substantially more than books, of course, but it definitely doesn't help.

I don't want to complain too much, because some people don't have the opportunity to come to college at all, but it's more the inflated prices that bugs me than the total cost itself. The books are not worth what students are being charged, and that is very frustrating.

That's exactly what I meant. While we were able to get a good deal of federal aid for my husband to finish college, he paid a ton for books, on TOP of what he paid to the school for tuition and fees... And EVERYTHING is inflated, the fees are inflated, the cost for printing a student ID is inflated for heaven's sakes!
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Little_Doctor
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My microeconomics book was $180. It was a bad day.
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Jay
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Go to Half.com
My Managerial Modeling book was $150 in the book store, but got it off of half.com for $50. Nice!!
I never buy from the college book stores anymore.

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Javert Hugo
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I'm going to do that thing where someone comes in a thread and says they have the perfect solution to the problem, but it isn't transferable.

Since I work at the Library of Congress, I can check out all my textbooks with no competition for free. Yay!

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NotMe
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My brother got a ~150 page paperback textbook today. The college bookstore wanted something like $125, but we got it off Amazon for about $80, and then the price dropped to $70.

My university bookstore opened yesterday. Classes start tomorrow. Last week, they wouldn't tell us when they were going to open. That really sucks when I want to get in there and verify the ISBN of a textbook that is a lot cheaper online.

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Eaquae Legit
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I had a prof once who spent all the prior summer translating medieval Latin for our history class so he could print up a course pack without even the copyright fees.
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Itsame
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I wish that I could write a book and charge nearly a dollar per page. Oh wait, I'm planning on being a professor; I can! Nice teacher, Eaquae.
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aragorn64
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My physics book was $200. It's still hurting.

Then again, it was, like, five books in one. But still.

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Joldo
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I've mostly been able to wheel and deal for good book prices, and the professors here are pretty considerate about not requiring crappy, expensive books.

Other than that, I rely on word-of-mouth as to whether I need even buy a textbook at all, or if I can get by on Wikipedia and the university library.

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krynn
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my books were over $600 for this semester, and i still havent gotten the book for one of my classes.
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Valentine014
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Glad Jay mentioned half.com, their prices will save me a lot of money this semester.
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rivka
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Googling the ISBN is often useful. Other good websites for buying used textbooks:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/b/102-2245301-4756901?ie=UTF8&node=465600
Campus Books: http://www.campusbooks.com/
Big Words: http://www.bigwords.com/
Book Byte: http://www.bookbyte.com/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/textbooks/index.asp?z=y
Direct Textbook: http://www.directtextbook.com/
Class Book: http://www.classbook.com/
Half.com: http://www.half.ebay.com/textbooks

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Eaquae Legit
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bookfinder.com is also often useful. Some textbooks can be found relatively cheaply on abebooks.com and alibris.com, but it's hit-or-miss.
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littlemissattitude
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I loved it when I hit my upper-division classes and most of my professors used regular books (and mostly paperbacks) as texts rather than formal textbooks. Especially when I was averaging between three and six or seven books per class. I took one lit class in which we read a novel a week for sixteen weeks (well except for Fellowship of the Ring; we got two weeks to read that). But since it was a course in popular literature, most of them were mass market paperbacks at (at that time) $5 or $6 each.

One thing I found puzzling. While I was still working at the community college where I had attended, I was browsing in the textbook section of the bookstore one day during my lunch break, I found a copy of a novel (I think it was a John Irving novel) that was tagged used, but had been priced above the price printed on the book. Talk about a rip-off.

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Reshpeckobiggle
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It's a racket. They release new editions every year or two, and there is very little new content from one edition to the next. Then what happens is the book you bought for 80 bucks used last year gets replaced by the "new" edition, and you cant sell the book for more than a small fraction of what you paid. The publishers try to act like it's an unavoidable process, and I've even read a few statements by their representatives saying things like "our studies have shown that the students and professors prefer the most up-to-date information in the field." Yeah, like all the new developments happening in the field of basic calculus and the history of philosophy and literature. Give me a break.

So what do I do? First, I wait until classes start to find out if it's necessary to buy the book. Then I buy the previous edition online. and I sell the book online at the end of the semester, usually for what I paid. It hasn't tripped me up yet. I'm a senior and I'm out no more than a hundred bucks altogether.

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Belle
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resh, it depends on the professor as to whether or not you can get away with that. My Shakespeare prof required we buy the most recent Norton Shakespeare, even though I have several copies of the complete works of Bill at home. It had to be that version and if you showed up to class without it you were sent home and counted absent.

Sometimes you cannot get away with buying an older version, particularly in English where the prof wants everyone reading the same version.

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imogen
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Belle, does your college have a used book exchange/program?

At my university, there was a student run program where you buy 'old' text books (usually from the class a year earlier) or sell your old ones - they were, in most cases, the same edition as the ones on the course outline. It still wasn't cheap, but usually the books sold at 60% or so of the original price - but you had to be prepared to put up with dog-earing and highlighting.

Either way, I hear you. I'm finding it mildly frustrating now, as I do my PhD and *want* to buy some books for my own personal library (especially as I hope to be an academic after I get my doctorate) and really, I just can't afford them. Especially while they aren't a tax deduction.

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BlackBlade
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I can't even buy all my textbooks this semester, it's just too much money, and I get pennies on the dollar when I return them if they are not outright rejected because a new edition of the textbook is being used annually.

Why do we need new editions of Algebra textbooks? Has it been updated in even the last 100 years?

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Carrie
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I haven't started looking for my textbooks yet. I figure I'll wait for the syllabi in class and go to the library if necessary.
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mr_porteiro_head
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At some university bookstores, the professor can specify the amount of kickback to him from each book. If hey says $20, then the bookstore will raise the cost of the book by $20 to each student, and send all or part of that money back to the professor.
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Javert Hugo
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Great article in NYT by a textbook author: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/opinion/16ayres.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

quote:
IN time for the new school year, the Government Accountability Office has released a sobering report on the soaring price of textbooks. Over the past two decades, the report tells us, "college textbook prices have risen at double the rate of inflation."

We're used to paying $25 for a hardcover novel, but my casebook on contracts now sells to students for $103, and the best-selling general chemistry textbook (co-authored by my father-in-law) costs $148. At state universities, textbooks and supplies account for 26 percent of all student fees, including tuition. At junior colleges, they are a whopping 72 percent.


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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
At some university bookstores, the professor can specify the amount of kickback to him from each book. If hey says $20, then the bookstore will raise the cost of the book by $20 to each student, and send all or part of that money back to the professor.

Which means more and more students will buy the book online, when that's possible.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Yeah, the summer I encountered this was back in '97, which was also the summer that I first heard about amazon.com.

Also, that only works for published textbooks, not for overpriced packets that the professor put together.

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rivka
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Ah. I suspect it is less true now, both because of online options and because of public focus on textbook costs.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Oops! I put a second line in my post, but only after you posted.
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El JT de Spang
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This is precisely why I either didn't buy the books, borrowed them, or bought an older edition.

I had a calculus text that ran nearly 300 bucks.

I also had a professor who'd photocopy and bind his notes for the entire semester and give them to his students. Man, I loved being at a small school.

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Foust
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quote:
resh, it depends on the professor as to whether or not you can get away with that. My Shakespeare prof required we buy the most recent Norton Shakespeare, even though I have several copies of the complete works of Bill at home. It had to be that version and if you showed up to class without it you were sent home and counted absent.
I have to ask. What insane university do you attend, and why didn't the class collectively tell the prof to go try and reproduce with himself?
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fugu13
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That's extremely normal. Many versions of Shakespeare are substantially different from each other, it is a major hassle to deal with variant page numberings, and the Norton Shakespeare includes extensive inline notes and supplemental material not present in random collections people already have.

I would be surprised and disappointed at a Shakespeare professor that did not specify at least a particular translation, and would assume the course would be bad.

edit: being sent home is a little odd, but lots of people with different versions would be a major disruption of the class.

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Belle
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It is absolutely normal. The same applied for my class on Milton.

You have to have a class using the same version, because so many exist. Some Shakespearean plays have multiple versions out there, and a few can be substantially different - Othello comes to mind. Lear also has some major textual variations.

This professor insisted that we be able to discuss the work and go straight to a specific page number and the rest of the class read along. If you didn't have your book, you weren't prepared to discuss the work in class, thus you weren't prepared for class, so go home.

And it was a she, for the record. Also the best class I've taken - I learned tons.

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Foust
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A majority of the profs I've dealt with think the publishing industry is a scam.

I've had profs photocopy entire books for classes. One prof, when he was specifically barred from photocopying the various chapters and articles needed, told us where to find them in the library and then organized us to do the photocopying ourselves. We shared the cost amongst ourselves.

Even without all of this, I've only encountered one prof that insisted we have one exact edition. What, your professor can't say "go to act one, scene one, and let's see what the ghost says?" She actually has to use a page number?

That being said, I wasn't aware of there being "major textual differences" in Shakespeare plays. Do these various versions have specific names? Like, Marlowe's Faust has an "A" version and a "B" version, no matter who the publisher is. If it works the same way for Shakespeare, why can't the prof just say "make sure you have the "A" version"?

As for the notes, yikes, are they really worth buying a whole book for? Are they really so important, intricate and difficult that they can't be covered in five minutes of lecture time?

Yeah, student text book costs just annoy me. I get around them every way I can.

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Foust
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Multiple translations is a different matter, of course. There is no real way around that. But we are talking about Shakespeare, and presumably it was being studied in English?

Being sent home? Does the prof moonlight as a kindergarten teacher?

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fugu13
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There are numerous different versions of Shakespeare, particularly certain plays. Since for most plays there is no original version, new versions are regularly created based on new scholarship. The Norton version is actually one of these, so unless one buys a Norton Shakespeare, one cannot have the same version as anyone else.

The notes are generally for reading, and no, they cannot be covered in five minutes of lecture time. The plays are extensively annotated, often with several annotations for a single line, and many volumes have several additional essays about each play.

Much as you might not like the publishing industry, the photocopying you were doing was illegal, btw.

I used translation because, even though the language is English, and modern English at that, most versions update the spelling (which can involve interpretation), and the versions are so different at points as to be analogous to translation. If a person's line is grossly different in two of the earliest versions we have, and scholars have good reason to believe both lines are different from what was originally written and from what was performed on stage, what do you put in your version? Some of the most famous lines of Shakespeare appear exactly in none of the earliest folios and whatnot we have of Shakespeare's plays, but are interpolations.

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Belle
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One of our major papers in that class was to take the Norton Shakespeare, and then examine a few lines in it along with the same lines in the folio and quarto versions to see how they differ. And of course, there are multiple folios and quartos, and they can ALL be different. The Shakespearean plays you are so familiar with are really just compilations of various versions, all decided upon by certain editors. You're not so much reading Shakespeare as you are reading an editors' decision about what should be called "Shakespeare." Shakespeare was writing in an age where copyright did not exist. Plays got changed often...which version is the "right one?"

So the version a class is using matters very much in English classes. The same held true in my Milton class - where we used the Riverside Milton. Our professor told us she assigned the Riverside because it was so widely used and she figured we could get used copies easily. I liked that class so much I kept the book. [Wink]

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Foust
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Much as you might not like the publishing industry, the photocopying you were doing was illegal, btw.

I was unaware of this!

I hope none of the publisher's children went without Christmas Goose because of my actions...

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Shanna
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When I took a class on Shakespeare's tragedies, a certain publication was recommended but our professor was very happy with the one or two students who had complete publications of their own. And this was a class where each play was read aloud during class hours so there was abit of confusion getting used to the different page numbers of mismatching lines, but it was minimum. It actually improved the class when we could discuss why one publication had a line that another was missing. And it was good to have differing phrased lines when we came to a difficult passage. We could say, "Oh, well his version makes more sense," or "Did the editor change the character's motives when he chose 'word A' over 'word B'."

I can't really complain about my college textbooks costs because I was in a liberal arts program, which meant buying alot of paperbacks that very rarely ran over $100 a semester after shopping on half.com. Most of the time, the trouble was getting the booklist in time to order online or hoping that the bookstore had ordered our books, which was rarely the case. We often wouldn't get all of our books until midway or later into the semester. Counting my textbooks over the four years, I had one for physics (two semesters), one for math (two semesters), one for french (three semesters), one for ecology, and one for logic. In a way though, I spent more money that my friends in other colleges at the university because they often sold their textbooks to other students when they were done while I couldn't part with all my beloved, heavily-noted paperbacks. My back did not enjoy packing up all those boxes of books when I left school.

Course, I made up for it and then some when it came time to buy books for my thesis and I'm off to go buy another one tomorrow.

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Javert Hugo
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I'm surprised the class made you buy the book at all.

In my class last semester, then professor said that if we could find the text online, it was okay to go ahead and use that. MOst people got the book anyway because finding the texts and printing them out is a pain and to keep the books for future reference, but it was possible to go through the class and not buy a single textbook.

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Reshpeckobiggle
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When we've got plenty of perfectly adequate versions -of whatever- available, profs who insist on one particular version, and that version just happens to be the most expensive version, well, those profs are small little people.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
I used translation because, even though the language is English, and modern English at that, most versions update the spelling (which can involve interpretation), and the versions are so different at points as to be analogous to translation.

I assumed you meant from the original Klingon.
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fugu13
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That too. At least for the tragedies. I'm pretty certain the comedies were written by some puny human.
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DDDaysh
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Ok, this is what really REALLY ticks me off. Our college bookstore has a place for you to order the books online. However, they WON'T give you the full title or ISBN online. That means you can't compare prices on books unless you physically go into the bookstore (which has ridiculously limitted hours before the semester starts - for those of us who work full time.) That way, you end up not being able to get the ISBN for your book until the start of class, which really limits your ability to order it online (and get a fair deal).

Luckily, most of my classes are just once a week, so often I can order it online and have it by the second or third class, but it really seems like the University Bookstore isn't playing very fair.

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Belle
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quote:
k, this is what really REALLY ticks me off. Our college bookstore has a place for you to order the books online. However, they WON'T give you the full title or ISBN online. That means you can't compare prices on books unless you physically go into the bookstore (which has ridiculously limitted hours before the semester starts - for those of us who work full time.) That way, you end up not being able to get the ISBN for your book until the start of class, which really limits your ability to order it online (and get a fair deal).

Luckily, most of my classes are just once a week, so often I can order it online and have it by the second or third class, but it really seems like the University Bookstore isn't playing very fair.

My university bookstore does the same thing. They WILL not give you the ISBN's online and most of the time don't even list the full title or the author's name so it's virtually impossible to shop online.

The best solution to that I've found is to email the prof directly and ask them what they're using. I only do it with profs that I know, however...but since I'm a senior most of my classes are with people who know me and I them.

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Liz B
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I could be wrong, but I thought that the photocopied packets professors put together were expensive because of having to pay for the right to photocopy copyrighted material, not because of overcharging on the part of the professor/ copy shop?

I know that one professor had us all go to the library to read a particular article; he didn't include in in the classpak because the fee to reproduce it was so outrageous.

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fugu13
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Yes, it is almost always the copyright fees that run up the prices of course packs.
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Blayne Bradley
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In Canada books are more expensive then tuition.
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