Textbooks

By Grace Gulino

Photo courtesy of NBC

Buying textbooks for classes each semester feels like being caught in a trap: you are required to purchase them despite the cost, and otherwise the price you pay could b efailing a course.

According to research done by The Huffington Post, The National Association of College Stores predicts that university students spend an average of “$655 on textbooks each year,but with a single textbook easily costing as much as $300, that total can be much higher. In fact, the College Board puts the annual cost of books and materials at $1,168.”

On top of paying tuition—which often increases annually—textbooks can be the purchase that many university students forget to consider before classes start.

More research done by NBC News shows that textbook prices have actually increased overtime. A graph, featured in an article showcasing their findings, depicts the cost of textbooks over time and the information is staggering.

“BLS data from December 1977 to December 2014 notes a 961 percent increase in textbook prices. Extend the view out to January 1977 and June 2015, the most recently available data, and it rises further to 1041 percent,” the article explains.

After speaking to four Boston University students of different majors, the consensus is that textbooks are a sizable investment, but their cost is not always reflected in their use.

“I feel like I don't use the books at all and it's sad,” said Briana Hanson (SAR ’17). “I feel the cost is not offset by how much professors have us use it in class and for other assignments.”

Despite whether they purchase online or through the campus Barnes & Noble, these students estimate they spend an average of $200 for their books each semester.

Ra’iatea Lohe (CAS ’17), an environmental science major spending the semester in New Zealand, was surprised—yet glad—that she did not have to buy more than one book, as her readings were provided in class. When she is on campus, however, she does feel that the cost of textbooks is an expensive necessity, on top of already having to pay for food and other needs.

“I usually pay $70-110 [per book],” she said. “But it’s just ridiculous, and then it [is] so frustrating when Barnes & Noble won't buy it back.”Ana Babinec (SAR ’17) was especially frustrated when one calculus course she was enrolled in required students to buy a book that could only be bought through the BU bookstore.

“It was $160 and you needed it for the homework, and that's all it was used for,” she said.“There were more than 150 kids in my section and the fact that BU ‘requires’ 150 kids to buy a $160 book on top of tuition is ridiculous and disgusting. The professor could have just uploaded the homework problems and made the book optional for those who wanted more help.”

The question of whether or not a student’s major correlates with how much he or she spends on books also stands. It is commonly believed that science and math majors tend to pay more for their books, and Babinec agrees.

“Being a science major I think I have less books to buy but they are more expensive,” she said.

She also mentions that many classes, especially math courses, require students to buy new versions of textbooks or workbooks each semester, which further adds to the overall cost.

Websites like Chegg and Amazon are places where Babinec and Lohe turn to when they arel ooking to save.

Daniel Patton (COM ’15) said that he primarily used the Barnes & Noble at the beginning of his college career. Hanson also shared that she uses the bookstore to rent out texts, and both of them said it was due to pure convenience.

“The later into my school years, the less I needed them,” Patton said. “By Junior and Senior years, there were some books I didn’t even buy. I could tell when the syllabus didn’t have assigned reading for the book, or after the first week of class whether I needed it or not. My last semester I only used one textbook—an Amazon Kindle reader.”

While buying books feels like throwing money out the window, it does not appear professors will stop asking us to purchase them anytime in the near future. But Babinec does leave us with a bit of food for thought:

“I learn better listening to a professor than reading a textbook.”