Buried in (Text)Books

This fall, I am taking four classes, and all but one requires that I purchase the books listed on the syllabus. My grand total in textbook costs? $331.29. I should note that this price comes after the game that every student on this campus is familiar with: browsing Facebook pages for resold textbooks, price checking on Amazon, and after those channels fail, resorting to the campus bookstore. And, as a literature/writing major, I have heard that my textbooks are cheaper than my STEM peers. While I am fortunate to be able to afford this, and power through with more frustration than anxiety, many of my fellow students are not. Professors on this campus should opt to upload scans of required readings or link students to online copies of books on Canvas instead of forcing students to buy textbooks. 

A shift toward online course content would alleviate students’ already high financial burden. On the UC San Diego website’s cost of attendance page, it is listed that the average cost of on-campus attendance for this academic year for a California resident is $31,887, and for non-California residents it’s $61,641. Of that, the university advises to budget for approximately $1,128 just for books and supplies. If professors were to transition to uploading course content online, that would mean an average of $1,000 saved for each year. And the reality is that given the prices of tuition, housing, and food, that money would in all likelihood still find its way back toward the university through other routes. If professors are able to pay for the reproduction rights to create print course readers with excerpts of readings, they should be able to place that same content online. This transition would cut down on the costs placed on students, and ultimately be a more sustainable alternative to printing hundreds of readers that are only used for three months. 

Furthermore, placing course content online would only serve to promote students’ engaging with assigned texts. This campus is so large that it becomes impractical for students to carry around all of our books, most of which we’re only assigned to read a handful of chapters. We have the option of renting commuter lockers, but that adds to the overall cost of having physical textbooks and requires students to find the time to return to certain locations in order to access their books. However, nearly everyone carries a laptop or a phone, meaning that access to online readings could be just a click away. Moreover, even if one doesn’t have access to internet at home, there are multiple libraries and resource centers that allow students free computer usage. If professors offering online readings, students would be able to utilize those readings any time they wanted or needed to. 

Ultimately, arranging for course content to be available on Canvas would present students with a choice as to whether or not they want to possess print copies. The choice should not be between buying a book or not doing the readings. Thus, professors should upload their assigned readings out of an awareness of the pressures placed on modern students and the benefits of an increasingly digitized campus.  

Photo courtesy of Daisy Scott.

Image design courtesy of Geena L. Roberts.