As I mentioned in the previous post on this topic, I got hosed on my textbooks when I went to my community college bookstore and bought them this week. After all your comments, many of which chastised me for being so naive, I’ve decided to break down the problem book by book and see if I can do better.
To recap, I have six total textbooks (that make a pile slightly shorter than a “for-here” mug at my local Dunn Bros. coffee shop) for my four Spring Term classes. I am a little rusty at the nuances of actual school attendance (but we’ll work through that here in these pages, as well). So, after in my first visit to the halls of higher education in 17 years or so, I had my student ID photo taken (not bad, actually; much better than my drivers license photo). The helpful student who took my pic told me that the way to get my course textbooks was to present my course schedule at the bookstore window, “down those stairs.”
Like a customer at the Soup Nazi’s shop on Seinfeld, I waited humbly in line, head bowed, avoiding direct eye contact until it was my turn at the window. I handed the man my schedule and stepped aside. He disappeared for a moment and returned with a smug, yet hostile, sneer and a short-stack of textbooks; he asked me how I wanted to pay for them. I told him. These six slim, softcover volumes set me back $423.35. In shock, I staggered away (believe me, it wasn’t the weight of the books that caused my stagger) to my computer and complained miserably about it to you fine, patient readers. Now that it’s out of my system, it’s time to do something about it.
First, let’s break down what I got for my money. Of the six texts that I was handed, five were new and one was used. For my Ethics class, the texts were: A Practical Companion to Ethics (Weston), new, $19.95; Writing Philosophy (Vaughn), used, $15.00; and Doing Ethics (Vaughn), new, $93.50 — doesn’t seem very ethical at that price, does it? My sales class and marketing class required only one text each: Sell, 3rd ed. (Ingram, et al.), new, $79.95; and MKTG, 6th ed. (Lamb, et al.), new, $64.95. The most insidious class, however, is Microeconomics. The instructor had the textbook publisher Pearson bind a custom collection of materials put together solely for his Microecon class at this one community college (says so right on the cover) and charged $150 — that’s ONE HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS — for it. So, when we examine the situation closely, one inch of customized materials for this single course account for more than one third of my total textbook expenses for the Spring term. Microeconomics, indeed!
So, seeing as how my new books are still shrink-wrapped and returnable, let’s see where I can do better. For Weston’s book, I paid $19.95. Amazon has it listed new at prices ranging from $15.00 to $17.61, and used starting at $9.90. Alibris has copies available for as low as $0.99, but it may be an older edition. However, it may not matter too much on a book of this less-than-technical nature. In any case, I would need to include shipping costs for an online, purchase, but it seems that I could have universally done better than the $20 I paid for the text. It’s not available at my local library, not does there appear to be an available online version of this book. BookRenter.com will lend it to me with free shipping for as little as $6.99 (30 days) and up to $10.99 (for the 125-day term of the semester). This seems like a practical option. So let’s say I overpaid by $10.00 for A Practical Companion to Ethics.
With respect to my next Ethics text, Writing Philosophy, BookRenter charges $14.28 for an entire term’s rental. Amazon marketplace has used copies as low as $5.07, but shipping costs come into play. I paid $15.00 for a used copy, with no shipping costs and no wait and no return hassle. So I actually feel like I did pretty well on this text and am feeling okay toward my college bookstore for this one. That takes care of the “little” books. So, I’m going to wrap up this post having looked at the “little” books on my required text receipt. Overall, I paid about $35 for one new text and one used text; more frugally, however, could have done better renting A Practical Companion to Ethics, which would have saved me $10.00, or in more persuasive frugal terms, nearly 30% of the total cost of these two books. In the next installment of my community college textbook saga, we’ll take a look at the bigger, monster books for which I was nicked more than $50.00 apiece. We’ll also break into this “customized” course book for my Microeconomics class and see if there’s a way to assemble the materials myself without having to pay $150 for the fancy, bound cover.