Backup measures shouldn’t be the go to to avoid high costs

In the digital age, when most of us are taking laptops to class through which we have immediate access to vast virtual libraries of often free online resources, we have to ask: Are we paying too much for textbooks?

Now, before I go much further, I feel it’s worth pointing out that, I’m from the United Kingdom, where very few students actually end up buying textbooks, and when they do, they don’t have to pay a penny out of their pocket. Confronted with the list of textbooks I’d be needing for my classes this year, I feel like one of the Weasley brothers.

The average class requires students to own and/or have permanent access to anywhere between one to three core books, never mind all the external reading material. For a student studying in five classes per semester, the maximum amount you pay could run into hundreds of dollars per semester.

Most students get around these high prices by snatching up older copies of their books, or getting copies used by others. Plenty of textbooks you’ll see in class aren’t firsthand, or even second- or third hand, and that’s something else that’s down to the digital age.

The internet makes  easily-accessible textbook exchanges easy to use, and if you’ve never made use of one of them yourself, you’d be surprised at the sheer volume of books changing hands. But students shouldn’t be forced to make use of these tools just to avoid paying hundreds of dollars.

It isn’t rocket science that in order to cherry-pick the relevant citations in context, you need to know the content of your books well. However, that still doesn’t allow for ignorance of the fact that most students, once a given book is read and references extracted, often don’t have any need of it again. So why have we accepted that we’ll pay such a high price for something that’s only useful for a semester?

Should we cap the price of textbooks? I’ll let you be the judge, but the next time you’re down at the bookstore and you take a look at the eye-watering price tag, perhaps you might just want to check if someone’s just finished your course and wants to do a deal first. I certainly know I’d much I’d rather do that than be paying at least $100 per copy!