Dan Kirkwood: The great textbook experiment

I’ve been dreaming of textbooks recently, but as of late, the dream has become a nightmare. I’m dreading them not only for their content, but for their prices. Every semester I have squared my shoulders and marched into the bowels of the GW Bookstore to face my nightmare. With a little hard work, however, my nightmare is about to change.

I have known that the books are available elsewhere and at a significantly cheaper price. That, of course, would have involved me getting my act together sometime in late August and doing comprehensive online searching – yeah, right. I would gather ancient tomes of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

Last semester, my bill for textbooks came out to $450. This year, I’m seeking a new path to absolve myself to the gods of thrift. I have resolved to spend only $100 on textbooks this semester.

It is a frightening position to take for those accustomed to spending more than four times that much on books. One hundred dollars, or 100 Colonial bucks (I still cringe when my dad says Colonial bucks) – no more, no less. Recently, I went to the GW Bookstore’s Web site and the first textbook I brought up was $111. Whoops. My heart sank.

Never fear, dear pocket. I won’t be dropping that heavy cash anymore. To avoid a semester of poverty, I’ve outlined the following plan. And with some careful consideration, and maybe even a little luck, it may just work.

My main course of action will be to share textbooks. Perhaps I am different than most, but I don’t spend all my waking hours doing class readings. This semester I am planning to chat up a couple classmates and see if they’ll go in on the textbook with me. This will require some sharing. Handoffs in class should work. When the test comes we can split it up by days, half days or hours if need be. The only inconvenience is that I will have to be more organized in my studying. If you do happen to be in a class of mine, perhaps we could share. We’ll both win.

I also plan to use the library. During the first few days of school, I will prowl the stacks to see if any of my required texts are there. If someone has it out one day, I can put the reading off a few days. Of course, this would not be the first time I’ve been able to put off a reading.

My last option this week will be to take a long look at the syllabus, and consider this: is the professor serious about this textbook, or is he/she bluffing? Consider, then reconsider, do you really need to buy this book? Make your gamble. Throw your dice. Take the ride.

These are my ploys, but the problem is more daunting than a few cheap tricks. Students need to demand more awareness about textbook costs from professors and work together to reject this preposterously inflated market. Just imagine what would happen if we all refused to buy textbooks, similar to what I am considering. Perhaps prices would actually become affordable. And maybe that sort of mass rebellion is just the sort of shock the University, and schools around the country, need.

-The writer is a junior majoring in geography.

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