How to Get Rich Quick

I figure it must go something like this:

  1. Open a bookstore on campus.
  2. Wait until September.
  3. 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?

13 thoughts on “How to Get Rich Quick

  1. I was very very lucky in college. For the most part we were able to check out our textbooks! There was a whole section of library that was our textbooks. In a few cases I had to buy books but I always had enough time to order them online. I don't know how I would have dealt with that. It's way way too expensive!


  2. I definitely remember this from college. But it sounds like it's gotten a lot worse—$22 for a trade paperback?! WOW! They know you're stuck with them, and boy are they taking advantage.


  3. Send your booklists to your friends – who may be able to lend things like Mrs. Dalloway to you 😉 and go to more than one used book store?


  4. I dropped $150 on one textbook this year – I was not happy and even less so when I realized, besides the layout, little is different than previous editions. Definitely not happy (and it'll be Ramen for the next two months).


  5. Hey Christine,This is Kim, your partner for Weekly Geeks #16. I got your comment and sent an e-mail, but just wanted to make sure you got it 🙂 If you didn't, feel free to e-mail me at kim[dot]ukura[at]gmail[dot]com and we can get started.Also, I just had to buy a bunch of textbooks and it's really painful all the time. I've been getting more and more off Amazon and, both which end up being a little cheaper even with shipping (and you can often get free shipping on big orders). Kim


  6. I had 23 books for this term of classes. Many of them I owned already, for instance Hatchet by Paulsen and The 7th Harry Potter book. Because my uni's bookstore is owned by B&N nothing was cheaper there (or surprisingly more expensive). I live near Powells but the other students beat me there I think, they didn't have any of the books in stock. I ended up paying around 300 dollars for the books I didn't have.Advice: Check Alibris, Amazon and Powells first.


  7. Bookchronicle — yikes! That is perhaps one of the few advantages of my English degree: lots of required reading but relatively few “textbook” type books. Kim — got your email, thanks! And that's the first I've heard of, I'll have to check it out.Daily — I'm guessing that you're taking a children's lit course this year. You'll have to tell me what you think of Hatchet — I was forced to read it in grade eight and did not approve.


  8. Hahaha! That opening line is awesome. I feel your pain right now. I actually haven't bought my books yet because I'm still waiting on my financial aid check (hey, wouldn't it be brilliant if they sent those out BEFORE school started?). However, I HAVE scoped the place out and found out one of my books is $240! What the? Don't they know that college students are poor?!


  9. Were any of these books set in previous years for other students? As an English Department we try hard not to change too many of the books we set from year to year and then organise a system whereby this year's students can buy from last year's students. This cuts the cost enormously because not only do you pay much less but you know that you're almost certainly going to be able to sell things on the following year. If the department don't organise this then what about your students union?


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