Buried by textbook$



Made of money
  • Africa Studio/Shutterstock
  • Made of money
I was the sucker who needed to have every required textbook listed on a college course’s syllabus, regardless of size or practicality. I was also the sucker who thought to himself, “No way am I selling this back to the bookstore. I’m going to reap the benefits of this anthology when I need to brush up on my modern American poetry.” And five years removed from grad school, I’m now the sucker with heaps of dusty, unused textbooks lining the depths of his closet.

Obviously, I graduated from the college life a few years too early—that monthlong European backpacking trip should’ve been extended by at least three years—and never got to enjoy the textbook reform spearheaded by Illinois senator Dick Durbin, one of the top-ranking democrats in the U.S. Senate. Passed in 2008, one piece of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, in so many words, prevents students from dropping their entire two-week Whole Foods paycheck on texts that they’re likely to spend more time falling asleep in than reading over a given semester. Check out the act’s two best bullets below:

No more useless bundles that force you to purchase supplementary crap shrink-wrapped with your textbook. Huzzah for this. I’ve acquired enough German tutorial CDs over the years to fill a VW Beetle, and I have no recollection of ever being assigned any work from an attached workbook. The legislation requires that publishers who sell bundled textbook packages must also sell the supplemental material separately from the textbook.

Pricing information on current texts and usable previous editions will be provided to professors, who can then pass it on to their students. This will allow students to: A) Gauge the most useful and cost-effective editions and still ask their parents for the money. B) Scoff and try to be the first to snatch up the texts from the library. C) Track down friends who took the course last semester and guilt them into open-ended loans of the texts.

Hell, now that you have a smartphone or tablet or whatever doesn’t make you out of date, you can even shed the stuffed, backbreaking book bag and download textbooks through an app like Inkling, which puts five-pound texts right onto your iPhone or iPad for casual academic reading any time of the day—though biochemistry on an iPhone sounds like the third circle of hell.

But if you still need to hold something tangible and don’t mind the lugging, you can rent texts a semester at a time from sites like chegg.com for a fraction of the price of a new, campus-bookstore-bought text. “Reasonable highlighting” is permitted. Just watch out for the late fees.

Or if none of these options sound appealing, please feel free to come over to my apartment, dig through my closet, and start excavating some of the behemoth texts I have in there. Norton anthologies of Western literature, very probably every Toni Morrison novel, the complete works of Geoffrey Chaucer, and enough lit theory books to make you barf. I sell cheap.

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