Textbooks: weighing down backpacks and emptying wallets

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How were you planning to spend your hard-earned summer cash this semester?

Perhaps you’ve had your heart set on an iPod to make workouts more enjoyable, a stylish fall wardrobe to make you the envy of any fashion aficionado, or even some brand new … textbooks?

The cost of one semester’s worth of textbooks has risen enough to compete with the price of high-tech music devices and Armani clothing.

A U-Wire article entitled “U.S. education dept. study to address rising textbook costs” reports that the average price of textbooks has been steadily increasing at a rate of 6 percent per year since 1987.

Web sites such as campusprogress.org provide a few explanations as to why textbook prices have skyrocketed across the board.

One reason for the price increase is that publishers are frequently releasing new editions of so-called “old” textbooks.

Many of the new textbooks, however, have few changes.

Ben Waxman of campusprogress.org writes, “the new edition might be worthwhile if it had new material, but most changes are usually minor and cosmetic.”

During their trips to the bookstore, Fairfield students such as Ashley Calame ’09 have noticed this trend as well.

“To be completely honest, I think it’s awful how much they charge at the bookstore,” Calame said. “I can buy the same book at Barnes and Noble new for less than what they charge for it used.”

It does not help that already pricey books are often packaged with various CD-ROMs and other study aids, which Waxman calls “all kinds of useless bells and whistles [used] to justify high prices.”

Many times, students have no choice but to purchase the whole package.

Fairfield’s bookstore manager, Barbara Farrell says, textbook prices are high because making textbooks is expensive.

Some of the greatest expenses that are involved include the cost of materials, author and publisher income, marketing costs and freight expense.

“There is nothing heavier than paper. [Therefore] the cost of shipping skyrockets,” Farrell says.

The cost of textbooks has become such a pressing issue among colleges across the country that the U. S. Department of Education is conducting a study on how to counteract the textbook market.

This study won’t reach its conclusion until the summer of 2007, according to the U-Wire article.

So, what can be done in the meantime?

For one, students can purchases textbooks from Web sites such as Amazon.com.

“I was so fed up with buying textbooks at our bookstore that I made an account on Amazon.com, which not only makes it easier for me to purchase my new textbooks, but it also makes it easier for kids in my position,” says Gianna Mondoro ’09.

Some students have already found that the online textbook market is a much more affordable way of keeping up with long lists of books.

Farrell agrees that Amazon can be helpful.

However, she also asks, “Is there a place that consistently sells books at half our price? No. If you want what you need, this is the place to get it. … We’re going to stand behind what we sell.”

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