Students Hit Books, Books Hit Back

Concerning the very real problem of the cost of textbooks today, the Daily Mississippian discusses the issue of how Ole Miss college students are dealing with textbook costs that are beginning to approximate the cost of tuition.

Here's the article discussing what types of options students have in terms of acquiring textbooks; buying them new (from the university bookstore, the local independent bookstore or, buying them used, borrowing or sharing them, and of course visiting them at the library.


During my five years at University, I probably purchased no more than 10 new books from the University Bookstore, out of the hundreds that were 'required' reading. This is despite the fact that I frequently visited the store and browsed through the shelves. I found that the library and the internet were perfectly adequate reference sources and it was only the occasional sheer desperation when all of the multiple copies of a textbook were reserved weeks in advance, that I was forced to actually hand over money for a new book.

However, I did have a lot of sympathy for friends who were studying scientific or technical subjects where new editions of books were produced every year and referencing a previous edition was considered almost unforgivable by the tutors.

If I'd had to purchase 'every' single book from the University Bookstore that was 'required' reading for each course that I took, I'm sure that it would have cost me somewhere in the region of $3500 each year.

I believe that the current average estimate for the cost of books and materials is around $1000 per year. Although, in subjects like Law or Medicine, the cost of books can double or even triple the average.

Here in U.S. institutions, professors typically put a book or article on reserve in the library, so that the students can read only the small portion of assigned reading rather than buying an entire book that might not be needed. Is this done in the UK?

Joint Degree - Economics and French with two optional subjects per year, which could come from any discipline.

I think my professors had a much broader view of required reading than was actually necessary to learn the subject. Quite often you would have to read two or more books on exactly the same subject because the political positions of the authors were different. Luckily most of the books of that variety were fairly lightweight, like an average paperback.

Also you find that, especially with Arts subjects, you don't have to read each book cover-to-cover. A professor might place a book in the reading list but only 'require' certain chapters. I suppose that makes my figures somewhat deceptive.

I really have no idea how this compares with the US system, but I do know that even within the UK system there are vast differences in teaching and assessment standards and methodologies, depending on the University.

What did you study that required 96 books per year? Is the UK education system that different compared to the US system? I think I always had 6-8 books per semester, or between 15-20 books per year.

Hi Brian,

I probably should have put my calculations in my previous posting. I studied in the UK, so I worked out the amount in £GBP and then converted it to dollars.

Based on 8 modules (subjects) in a year, with an average 12 books 'required' reading for each module, and costing about £20 per book works out to £1920 every year. That amount is about $3500 at today's rates.

I hope that makes more sense :-)

It appears to be working OK.

Did the linked article seem kinda scrambled at the end for anyone else, or was it just me?

I know many academic libraries and librarians will not purchase textbooks. The books are too often stolen or lost after a couple of uses. I quite often will not buy a textbook for my library, unless a professor asks me to put a copy on reserve.

If I'd had to purchase 'every' single book from the University Bookstore that was 'required' reading for each course that I took, I'm sure that it would have cost me somewhere in the region of $3500 each year.

That seems super high even if you were in a science major where the books were between $100-200 each. I was an engineering undergrad and probably spent $1000-1500 each year.

From my personal experience, yes, but again it varies depending on the professor. So, if you have a class of 100 students and only one or two copies of a particular book in the reserve collection, it can create it's own set of problems. Some libraries try to reduce conflict by limiting the length of time that a reserve book can be loaned even within the library; and the shortest loan time I have seen is two hours.

There are also Universities that are following the route of creating secure digital collections of book chapters.

An example institution would be: which uses services like to acquire copyright clearance and digital versions of copyrighted material.

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