Textbooks are something students will have to buy each semester and unlike in high school, in college books cost money, and can be a major drain on students’ wallets.
In the past spring and fall semesters, 26 percent of new textbooks and 16 percent of used textbooks cost students $80 or more at the Stony Brook University Bookstore.
According to College Board, the national average cost of textbooks at four-year public colleges was $1,137 for the 2010 – 2011 year. Textbooks can cost upwards to $600 a semester, depending on the major of the student.
“I would spend, like, $700 on books if I was getting them from the book store,” said senior Matt Sirotkin, 20, a mechanical engineering major.
His advice to freshmen that may not be able to afford all their books is to contact the professor a week before class to see if the homework is going to be in the text. If it isn’t, he recommends getting an older, and therefore cheaper, edition of the textbook with the same information.
This tip saves Sirotkin about $100 a book per semester.
“I am never happy to spend the money,” he said, “but it is something freshmen should expect.”
Though some professors sympathize with students’ strife, revisions are is sometimes necessary to keep students updated with the most recent information. This is even more important in the field of sciences where updated information can change an entire field of study.
“The most interesting stuff is the newest stuff,” said Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook. “You would be a fool to miss that.”
Kimmel has been a professor of sociology at Stony Brook for 23 years and has written more than twenty volumes of textbooks. His book “The Gendered Society” is the best-selling gender studies textbook in the country.
Every book he writes has a time frame before it needs a revision, but his gender and society textbook is revised about every three years. Kimmel said he doesn’t enjoy making revisions, but has to in order to give the most recent research information to his readers.
Kimmel said that students have this conception that teachers make students buy their textbooks because they want to make money off them. But, he said, writing a textbook is a massive amount of work and the money is not so great.
“Stony Brook students are not subsidizing my house in the Hamptons…” Kimmel said. “I don’t have a house in the Hamptons… and I won’t be getting one anytime soon.”
According to the Stony Brook University Bookstore, its textbook pricing conforms to industry standards for college bookstores nationwide.
Used textbooks are sold at 25 percent less than the new selling price. A student who purchases a used textbook is paying only 75 percent of the new price from the start. For example, a textbook worth $100 new costs $75 if bought used.
The bookstore also offers textbook rentals and eBook downloads at “substantially reduced prices” to help students save money.
Senior Katie Patestas, 21, is a sociology major and a minor in business. She says she spends between $200 and $300 a semester on textbooks.
“I shop around or I share with a friend,” she said. “Or I see if they have it in the library even.”
Often times, the library has a copy, but you may need to share that single copy with 300 other students.
She also recommends trying to find someone who has taken the class before to see how necessary the textbook is from a students’ point of view.
Unfortunately, she says, there are some classes you can’t avoid going to the bookstore for.