Do we really need our textbooks?

By Staff Writer Tighe Ratcliffe

If you ask anyone in a university these days about buying textbooks, they’ll probably groan and say something like “they’re way to expensive for the little amount that they’re used.” It’s a daunting thought that you’ll buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of textbooks in one semester and hardly ever actually use the book.

And if you try returning your book, even if it was only used once and it’s in perfect condition, you’ll only receive a marginal amount of money back. The fact is that these days, most classes hardly even use the textbooks that they assign. Now, there are some exceptions, but as a rule of thumb, you often rarely need that $400 textbook to pass your class.

Recently, the trend has been to convert towards online textbooks, which are slightly cheaper, but still ridiculously expensive. You’ll be paying anywhere from $75-$150 on average for these, and still hardly use them. And even these E-books are hardly used unless there is homework that goes along with the readings. So, is it time we say goodbye to textbooks? It’s increasingly looking that way.

Textbooks were very useful in the past before the internet was around. They provided a reliable way to find information that was important to what you were studying. But now they feel like a hinderance, not only to students, but to teachers as well. Times have inevitably changed, and so too now are the styles of teaching. Many professors are learning that there are better ways to engage students than using text books.

Personalized PowerPoint presentations, video and web article links, in-class activities, group discussions and many other strategies can allow a professor to create a course that allows them to teach what they want instead of the narrow constraints of a textbook.

How many times have you been in a class where all you did was “read” from the textbook and have a discussion in class? Now how often did you REALLY do those readings? Not too many I’m guessing.

Now if a professor does want to include like, one or two chapters from a textbook during their course, they could easily make copies or pdf’s of the pages and give them out to students. This would save students a lot of money in the long run.

This has happened quite a few times over my college career. Some professors are starting to wake up to the fact that students already pay way too much money as it is to get their education. And getting the textbook for class is always a massive struggle at the beginning of the semester. Very often it delays the classes lesson schedule by days, even weeks because so many students can’t get their books on time. Things would be better off if professors just stopped assigning textbooks.

And if you’re still not convinced, think about this: book prices aren’t the only expenditures students pay for that have drastically increased over the years. A college education has become a business. And what’s the goal of any business? To make as much money as possible.

Now, forget just for a moment that universities have basically become corporations, there’s plenty of time to talk about that. Instead, lets get back to focusing on textbooks, which are made by publishing corporations. These companies know that students need these books in order to get an education, so they take advantage of us by hiking up the prices. Supply and demand at it’s best. There’s no need what-so-ever for textbook prices to be that high.

They simply make text books so expensive because they know that they can because we have to buy them. But we can stop this form of big business from further corrupting our education system if we change the way we’re educated.

Now, will we ever stop using textbooks entirely? Probably not. There are still many classes such as math or chemistry that need the textbooks. But there are so many other that don’t need them. And lets face it, hardly anyone actually does the readings for class anyways. Who seriously has the time or patience to read several 50-page assignments from multiple classes each day?

Very few of us. We’ve got papers to write, clubs and other extra-curricular activities we’re a part of, social lives, and many of us have jobs. And for the people who actually do all their readings… you guys need a life. All kidding aside though, textbooks just aren’t all that important anymore, and we’re all to broke to really afford buying a $400 book only to need it for that one paragraph on page twelve.

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