Skip navigation.

The ridiculous price of textbooks

At the start of every semester an old argument resurfaces here at BYU: the ridiculous price of textbooks. Each semester there are angry letters to the editor casting blame at the BYU bookstore, the greedy professors, and whoever else is capitalizing on this business. And every semester the bookstore pleads innocence, trying to prove that they are trying to help the students. These issues are recycled at least twice a year.

I am graduating this semester, and so I will pass on a bit of advice to you BYU students (and probably UVSC as well) who have semesters still to go.

1. You are going to sign up for your classes way in advance, so why not take a trip to the bookstore and find out what books you're going to need a month or so before the semester starts? Just the same as buying your books, but instead just copy down the ISBN number and note the edition. This takes about two minutes per class.
2. If the cards posted on the shelves in the bookstore do not indicate future terms, email your professor. Professors are required to send out book order requests WAY in advance. This has long been a suspicion of mine, that the bookstore intentionally does not list necessary books until shortly before the semester starts, maintaining a corner on the market.
3. Start a spreadsheet that lists different places you can get your books and for what prices. This also helps you see what you're saving. A simple Google search will yield thousands of results for sites designed to buy and sell new and used textbooks. This is the beauty of the ISBN.
4. Buy books from the bookstore at a LAST RESORT.

Now I'm sure all of you have heard of these ideas before. Give them a try. This semester I am taking six courses that require 17 books. The bookstore prices (used where available) would have cost me over $600. I spent less than two hours finding ISBN's, emailing professors, and ordering books online and spent barely $300. Most of them were new, and those that were used were in better shape than any at the bookstore. Furthermore, I didn't have to stand in line and listen to, "If you're happy and you know it," and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I gave the bookstore only $40, for a book written by a professor here not available anywhere else. It feels good.

Provo sucks money away from students enough as it is. We are constantly being jacked over by local business owners (especially landlords). Don't give in on this issue. It's simple business. If the BYU bookstore starts losing business, they'll have to lower prices in order to compete.

Thanks for the suggestions

Thanks for the suggestions about emailing the professors. I will use that.

I just sold back my books.

I just sold back my books. All of them. They cost me $580 this semester.

I got back $140. "We are here to serve you," my a$$.

No problem. I used to work

No problem. I used to work in one of the teaching departments on campus, and I recall that book orders for the following semester were required by the bookstore months in advance. The fall semester book orders (what the faculty requested) were due by the bookstore in March. And yet, I would go to the bookstore three weeks before the semester started and the cards would not be on the shelf and nobody in the bookstore would know which books I needed for any particular class.

So if you want a legitimate complaint with the bookstore, that's it: they go on and on about how you are free to choose where you buy your books from, but do not provide information on which books you need until (in some situations) it's too late to get them anywhere else.

I really wish BYU would not

I really wish BYU would not delegate the responsibility of providing book information to the bookstore. It would be pretty easy to disseminate the information through some more neutral means, like Route Y.

That's actually a really

That's actually a really good idea. It evens the playing field. That way, when the bookstore says that we're free to choose any source, it would actually mean something. Up to this point, it's more like, "Hey you can get your books from anywhere you want. But you have to have them next month and we're not going to tell you which books you need until a week beforehand, even though we've known for months. Good luck!"

You should send in that suggestion to some department other than the bookstore.