By UWire Article
At the beginning of each semester, students trudge to the bookstore to pay an exorbitant price on textbooks for their classes. Many others, looking to save money, resort to purchasing books through online retailers like Amazon or Chegg, where they often revel in having saved money before realizing they somehow received the wrong book.
In an age where sharing information is even easier than withholding it, students have many options to obtain course materials. Unless the textbook industry plans a significant overhaul in policy and distribution, buying a textbook may soon become obsolete.
Purchasing textbooks is traditionally seen as a necessary college expense and can be a rite of passage for freshmen taking their first courses.
However, students in this day and age have found other, sometimes illicit, approaches to obtaining textbooks. These methods are unadvised, often borderline illegal, but their existence and their appeal to students cannot be denied.
Rather than spending money excessively, students can receive textbooks from a friend, borrow them “long term” from the library, download them from the Internet, purchase international editions of textbooks that are often cheaper or choose not to buy them at all.
It would be wrong to advocate any of these options, but they are certainly more sensible to the frugal college student than the one presented by the textbook manufacturers and the campus bookstores. This begs the question: Should textbook companies adapt to remain relevant cornerstones of our educational experiences? Are they even capable of doing so?
Textbooks in general are excellent resources. Many students find having a physical copy of the textbook to be much more conducive to studying. But many students do look to economize, and it is common knowledge that other options exist.
After all, there are formal institutions that suggest knowledge is a public good that should be accessible to all who seek it. This is why websites such as Wikipedia have been so popular not just with students, but also with the general public.
In addition, the popularity of free course supplies with several top institutions such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology attest to the belief that the more people gain knowledge, the better.
The textbook industry needs to recognize the trend toward the decommodification of education and take appropriate and drastic measures to stay relevant in these rapidly changing times.
The Brown Daily Herald Editorial Board, Brown University.