The Terror of Textbooks

By Lauren Sharkey

Hey Seawolves!  Hope you’ve all had a great summer and are happy to be heading back to Stony Brook for another great semester.

I love the day before school starts – I’m kind of sad the summer is coming to a close, but I can’t help but be excited that I’m going to be seeing all my friends soon.  As a senior, I’ve mastered the art of packing my entire life into tupperware in under six hours, I know the layout of both Target and Costco as if they were listed as the primary residence on my driver’s license, and I’ve learned that just because it’s a new semester doesn’t mean I need new school supplies.  The front of my binder might be falling off but the rings still work so I’m good.

“Yes,” I think to myself, as I marvel at my preparedness, “I got this.”

And for a moment – I’m happy.  For a brief period of time, I’m convinced that I’ve mastered how to be an organized and financially savvy college student.  But then it happens – out of the corner of my eye, I see a new e-mail in my inbox and I know it’s designed to wreck my world.

I bow my head, knowing it’s all downhill from here.  If I listen closely, I can almost hear my hard-earned cash from my summer job disappearing from my bank account.  I shuffle over to my desk, plop myself down, and sigh at the subject line, “Welcome to (Insert Name of Class Here)”.

It always starts the same – they sound so nice and happy: “Hi Students and welcome to (insert name of class here).  I will activate our class in Blackboard by the end of the day.  Under ‘Documents’ you will see the syllabus.  Please print it out and bring it to class tomorrow.  Looking forward to meeting you all.”

“And so it begins…” I sigh.

***

My last day at home is always great.  My mother makes my favorite dinner and wishes me a good semester.  I go to bed that night, carefully setting a series of alarms so I can leave for the (631) on time.  As I walk towards my computer, wondering if “Game of Thrones” has posted any news about Season 4, I remember I have a previous engagement.

I log into Blackboard, and sure enough – there it is…

I’m a senior now, so I’ve seen a few syllabi.  I’m not looking for the attendance policy, or when the first exam is…no, I’m on the hunt for something more important.

My eyes scan my screen faster than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends and suddenly, I locate it:  REQUIRED TEXTBOOK.  

As I open a new window in my browser, I experience a brief moment of hope – perhaps it won’t be that bad.  But as soon as I copy and paste the ISBN into the University Bookstore textbook reservation module and press enter, I know that’s not true.

I patiently wait for my query to be process and curse my eyelids for not being able to grow wider when I see it:

bignumber_okfamilypremiums

Okay, maybe it’s not that much.  But still, for a college student on a budget, it might as well be.

According to the Online Education Database, the average cost of a single textbook is $175.  On average, college students spend approximately $900 per year on textbooks.  Do you know what $900 buys you?  If not, let me help you out:

Now, before you go and blame the professor, you should know that professors have no control when it comes to the price of textbooks.  And for those of you asking, “Well, don’t they check the price before they assign the book?”  Unfortunately, 77% of professors say that publishers don’t disclose their prices.  Most professors state they would choose the cheaper textbook if they knew the costs.  Professors are victims just as much as we are – remember, they have to buy the book too!

In addition, publishers make it difficult to get the maximum sell-back value by releasing new editions of textbooks that render the version you purchased at the beginning of the semester useless.  It seems like a lose-lose for college students like ourselves.  But luckily, there are some ways you can beat the system and get the most bang for your buck!  Be sure to check back to find out how 🙂

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