I figure it must go something like this:
- Open a bookstore on campus.
- Wait until September.
- Get rich.
Seriously — textbooks are a huge racket. Especially if you go to the campus bookstores (doom! doom!)
Allow me a practical demonstration. Yesterday I went to two bookstores. The first: a used/bargain bookstore within walking distance of campus. Here’s what I bought:
- A Jest of God, by Margaret Laurence (mass market paperback, $2.99)
- A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving (mass market paperback, $0.50)
- Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood (hardcover, $8.99)
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (trade paperback, $6.99)
- Four Major Plays, by Henrick Ibsen (mass market paperback, $0.50)
- Jacob Two-Two’s First Spy Case, by Mordecai Richler (paperback, $1.00)
- Ten Days’ Wonder, by Ellery Queen (pulp paperback, $3.00)
- The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, by Beatrix Potter (hardcover, $3.99)
- The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner (trade paperback, $7.99)
- Stones, by Timothy Findley (mass market paperback, $0.50)
- Total damage (w/o tax): $36.45
- Average price: $3.65
Then, I had to go to the actual bookstore where my prof had ordered our books, having only been able to find a few at the cheap place. Here’s what I got there:
- Anna of the Five Towns, by Arnold Bennett (trade paperback, $20.00)
- In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed, by Carl Honoré (trade paperback, $22.00)
- Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie (trade paperback, $22.00)
- Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf (trade paperback, $14.95)
- Nervous Conditions, by Tsitsi Dangarembga (trade paperback, $23.95)
- The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai (trade paperback, $18.00)
- Under Western Eyes, by Joseph Conrad (trade paperback, $11.95)
- What Maisie Knew, by Henry James (trade paperback, $16.00)
- Total damage (w/o tax): 148.85
- Average price: $18.60
Is that not completely ridiculous? $150 for eight books? First there is the indignity of having to shop there (or at least being expected to do so — sometimes things are easier to find other places, but not always) and then there is the unavilability of anything but “trade” paperbacks. And if those aren’t just about the biggest book industry scam out there, I don’t know what is. It’s absurd!
Yesterday the guy checking out ahead of me at the second store asked if they had any sort of student discount. The cashier just looked at him like “Are you stupid?”.
How do you get around prices like these?