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Textbooks

One of the things I’m truly going to miss about my school here in England is the text book system.

In the US, I spend approximately $500 on textbooks a semester; note this is rather cheap, since all of my books that can be bought used are, and I always sell them back myself online rather than selling them to my school store for a mere pittance of the original value. However, there are always those books that can’t be sold back, like the ones that come with a temporary code for some online ‘resources’ or program. Usually, these texts cost me inordinate amounts, and I’m stuck with a book I often don’t have any use for afterwards; most of the time, these books belong to subject I’m required to take only because I’m in a liberal arts program, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with my majors.

Fortunately, in my entire time here in London, I’ve only bought one book, for a mere £25, and I plan on selling it back to my school store or online for a good deal of the money back. As for the rest of my books, I’ve borrowed them from the school library.

The library here is huge, and fortunately, contains multiple copies of just about every single text that I need for my classes. Since I only have each class once a week, making sure that I get to the books I need to read that week is generally not problem; all of the copies have different amounts of time that they can be borrowed for, so no one gets to hog a copy to themselves for very long. Sometimes I don’t even check out the books, but rather take them off the shelves, take notes in a nice quiet reading section of the library, and then return them to where they originally came from.

Sure, life would be easier if I simply bought the books and didn’t need to worry about due dates or finding them every week, but I’d also have spent a great deal of money. All of my classes require multiple books, but no one really expects you to buy them all. The professors only expect you to buy the primary text, if anything, and borrow the supplemental readings you need for your papers from the library. The list of supplemental readings is another thing I’m going to miss; it’s nice to know what books are good sources of information for your essays, rather than having to slog through dozens of texts in the hopes of finding something relevant to the question at hand.

I wish my library back home was like this; of the eight books I had to buy for one of my history classes last year, not a single one could be found in the library; rather, it mostly contains articles and texts that are useful as sources for projects and essays occasionally. I don’t even want to imagine how many of the books in that library have gone untouched for years; I think I’ve only checked out four texts max from them, since I also have access to online sources through programs like JSTOR. Considering how much we pay for tuition, you would think US schools would be more interested in helping us save money through other methods. However, sometimes it feels like they’re more interested in helping the textbook companies; I don’t get my textbook list from my school or the professors running the classes, but rather from the company that runs the on campus book store! Since they expect us to buy from them, the list often doesn’t contain anything important like author, edition, or even the full name; I normally have to message my professors individually for that so that I can buy my books used through Amazon.

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One Response to “Textbooks”

  1. Tim McGee Says:

    Excellent post, Lauren. When you come back, I think you ought to work with somebody at the school newspaper and start agitating for better treatment of students around this issue. You and your fellow students are being exploited terribly on this front.

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