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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Column: Who Needs Books?

As I stood for ten minutes in the line to check my bag so I could even enter the seventh circle of Dante’s Inferno that is the bookstore, I wondered why this has to be so difficult. Aggravation stems from every pore of my body as I walk down the aisles.

All right, so I understand that there are a lot of people getting their books and that’s why you have to wait so long. An hour or two of my life isn’t a big deal–irritating, yes –but in the overall scheme of things, what’s two hours?

Then you actually get to the register and that’s when the real fun begins. Whenever you look at a cash register and are relieved when something’s under $300, there’s cause for concern. I mean, come on, did I really need a $180 biology book? Unless the book has vital information as to the exact meaning of life, I’m all set, thanks.

Don’t fear, students. You can sell them back at the end of the semester. Right, about that: remember the aforementioned biology book? Well it looks like they’re going to use the fourth edition next time, so thanks for playing, but you now own a $180 dollar bookend. And what does this new fourth edition offer? It has online features and expanded appendices. Super.

But new editions aren’t the only way the book industry gives it to the consumer. This is my favorite part: they only take back so many used books, and once they get to a certain number they reduce the amount of cash they give back. I took Political Science 101 two semesters ago. We had one book and it was 75 bucks. After the final I was talking with my friend and he told me he got $35 back. I was pumped, that was almost half, so I hop in line with a sense of optimism, because I know I’m at least getting $35 of my original $300 book costs back. So, I hand the girl the book with a Kool-Aid smile on my face as I prepare for my $35 worth of satisfaction. She looks me straight in the face and says “$17.50.”

The words hit me, and I asked why my friend got $35, thinking maybe he was talking about another book. But the girl replied calmly that, no he did get $35, they just have enough of this book so I only get $17.

That was the last time I’ve ever stood in the sell-back line. I’d rather give my books away for free then participate in that kind of thievery. I don’t care, that’s not right.

So what’s the alternative? Online books, which I buy now, but they’re no picnic either. They never come on time and they don’t always have everything you need. You sure as hell won’t have those books by second week of classes, or even sometimes the first third of the semester. But they’re definitely cheaper (even with shipping and handling), and they’re a million times less aggravating.

We need these books and there truly isn’t an easy way to get them, so pick your poison, whether it be via online or through the bookstore. The moral of the story is that the textbook industry sees us like an ice cream truck sees a fat kid camp: easy money, and there isn’t a hell of a lot we can do about it.