In my recent visit to one of the community colleges I’ll be attending, I looked for the appropriate chemistry textbook that will be used for class. It turned out to be Chemistry: A Molecular Approach, offered for $150 for a used textbook and $200 for a new textbook. I suspected the price to be inflated, so I logged onto AbeBooks and saw the same used textbooks selling for $60 with about $4 shipping. Eventually, a used textbook in like-new condition was found on Half.com for $51 and $4 shipping. The textbook (which I now have received) has less wear and tear than the used textbooks at the college bookstore for 1/3rd of the price.
As if cost inflation wasn’t enough, college bookstores like to do other annoying things. For instance, the same college bookstore refused to announce which textbooks classes would use until January 4th in the hopes of forcing students who forget to order books early or are unable to order them online to buy from the college bookstore for exorbitant prices. The bookstore of the college where I have most of my units registered did no such thing, posting the required textbook(s) and materials in October. The textbooks and materials were sold shortly after in the same month. This was the case with my biology textbook, which I was able to pick up months before my chemistry textbook. However, there is another issue to be addressed which has to do with my biology textbook.
The textbook is a “custom edition” of Biology by Campbell and Reece. The same textbook was used for my AP Biology class, which I took my senior year in high school. The “custom edition” is the same exact book with chapters 26 though 50 omitted, leaving essentially molecular biology, genetics, evolution, and ecology, with most of anatomy and physiology gone. Due to such pruning, the book is also softcover instead of hardcover. The textbook was sold in a sealed package along with the printed study guide. If the seal is broken, the textbook cannot be returned (~$130). Not only is this a bit expensive, as the full version, containing about twice the pages as the custom version, currently costs $142.97 on Amazon (though this is without the study guide, but it still cannot justify the difference), but the buyer is unable to determine what exactly is in the textbook (in this case, it’s the 8th edition of Biology by Campbell and Reece, which can probably be found for about $60 online, although in International Edition form). Thus, this ensures that brand new textbooks are always bought, preventing students from saving money on used textbooks, and it ensures that cheaper alternatives cannot be searched for.