Let’s face it: textbook prices are freakishly high, but they don’t have to be.

There’s always the song and dance about publisher prices and the economy, but the truth is, there are plenty of ways professors can make it easier for students to get cheaper books each quarter. And there’s no better way to gain the respect and love of students than to save them some money. (Unless they bring food to class. We’re suckers for free food.)

Put book requests in early if using El Corral

If book requests are put in early to El Corral Bookstore, they’ll appear on the “textbook lookup” online and students can find the booklists for their future courses. Reserving books ahead of time saves 10 percent on prices, but that does no good if professors didn’t ever order them. Aida’s University Book Exchange can also get them if they’re requested on time, which gives students another local option.

Students can also shop around for the best prices online and order books in time to do homework the first few weeks. Sometimes, we won’t even know we have a book until the first day of class, and when reading is assigned we’re cornered into very few options (most of them are expensive). It’s unfair to spring a book on people and expect them to have the money and time to buy it in time to complete the reading for next class. We have to buy locally and can’t go for bargains online.

Use old editions

New books are shiny, which is understandably distracting and attractive, but old editions are often just as good and have more used copies available. Some textbooks update every year and professors insist on the very latest, which makes the chance of selling them back to the bookstore or other students slim to none. On that note, reusing the same book quarter to quarter is extremely helpful. We can sell them for more than the $1 recycling fee and you don’t have to change your syllabus or reading schedule. Win-win!

Only require books that are absolutely necessary

Be realistic: a quarter consists of 10 weeks, so getting through three textbooks in that time probably won’t happen. After all, our motto isn’t “learn by highlighting a textbook.”

Sometimes we buy them just to find out (too late to return it, of course) that we won’t be reading one of the books, or will only be reading a chapter or two out of it. You’re killing me. I’ll have to try to sell it online, because even if the book is unopened, I can only get a fraction of the money back from El Corral.

Keep students’ interests at heart

Your “favors” cost me dollars. I know your colleague from that research project is your best pal, but their book is really expensive. Your book is quite nice too, I’m sure, but is it necessary for this class? Students are not your personal fan club. By all means, please use your book if it’s relevant because your perspective will enhance the class, but don’t assign it just because you can.

As one example, a media law textbook requirement for journalism students more than quadrupled in price this quarter. The new, hefty law textbook, co-authored by the new department head, replaced the thorough, educational $30 paperback. How much better can the book really be? Almost five times better? I doubt it, unless weight is a consideration.

Look for alternatives to textbooks

There’s this miraculous thing called the Internet, and it’s a great resource for fast, cheap communication. A lot of class material can be put on Blackboard or just posted somewhere online. Even readings can be posted as PDFs.

Back in the physical world, course readers are a great idea in theory, but are usually quite expensive because of royalty charges. It’s also difficult to sell them after the class, so they’re not always the answer. Instead, try saving and sending us links to relevant material throughout the quarter.

The truth about students

We will sometimes take a hit in the grade department in order to save a couple hundred bucks. Especially for general education courses or areas of little interest to us, we see no reason to invest so much.

Definitely encourage students to share or borrow books and put some copies on reserve in the library. Maybe you should have a copy in your office for the truly desperate that they can borrow or come in and read. The more available the book is, the more likely we’ll pick it up.

High textbook prices force us to ask ourselves if it’s worth buying; we’ll often opt to just wing it from lecture material as best we can. The result is that we’re less prepared for class, have lame discussions and don’t get as much out of it as we could. But can you blame us?

Giana Magnoli is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily managing editor. She didn’t buy any textbooks spring quarter and still passed with flying colors.

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