With the lines beginning to subside at bookstores like Ulrich’s and Shaman Drum, students are finding their bank accounts dwindling painfully close to Notre Dame’s score last Saturday. Book prices have reached exuberant highs this year, forcing students to dish out more cash.
The Nebraska Book Company, Inc. which owns both Ulrich’s Bookstore and Michigan Book & Supply, has a large share of the textbook market on campus – and a near monopoly on art supplies. Because of this control, students are offered very few choices and have difficulty finding a fair price.
Although certain student groups exist to drive down textbook prices, such as the Student Book Exchange, their selection is often limited. One reason that students cannot find these textbooks floating about the Student Book Exchange is because professors often demand the latest textbook editions. While the revised editions of these textbooks may appear more glamorous with color charts and graphs, the added luster seems a small benefit when coupled with an often doubled cover price.
Alternative methods for buying expensive textbooks need to be available to the students of this University – alternatives like making every required textbook accessible in the libraries. Professors should take full advantage of this resource for their students. The books and textbooks held on reserve at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library provide a worthwhile option, but improvement on the system is needed. Frequently, the problem lies with professors who do not place enough books on reserve or simply do not bother with it at all.
Professors can also be partially blamed for the chronic shortages of books that often leave half a class without the assigned reading material for the first weeks of class. Because professors are often late turning in book orders bookstores often have no idea what books to buy and how many until it is too late. Professors should provide their course material earlier, so that bookstores can better predict the need for individual titles and so that students can look over the reading material and decide if the class is worth it. The availability of used books would also increase under this proposed scenario.
A trend that promises to cut down on student expenses for textbooks is the development of electronic course packs. Many professors are now beginning to offer coursepacks that are accessible through the Internet, negating costly fees at places like Dollar Bill Copying. However, many students complain about the strain of reading material over a computer screen. These students are then forced to print the coursepack and with only 400 pages per semester for printing some students would still prefer to buy the costly course packs.
Even with the help of these cost-reducing measures, students will agree that purchasing textbooks is still a significant strain on their wallets. Students who find themselves asking, “Should I buy this chemistry book or eat for the next month” are ready for change in the enormous expense of purchasing textbooks.