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Buying Textbooks // Yes or No?


Textbooks have been accompanying students since their original establishment in the 18th century. Their value has stood the test of time: they make a difference.  

Textbooks, like Webster’s Grammatical Institute of the English Language, were then meant to guide people into becoming better, more literate members. Today, a similar sentiment is carried. They are meant to guide and not to instruct.

Even getting a PhD isn’t synonymous with being the overall master of a particular subject, it’s unrealistic and virtually impossible. Since the beginning, the textbooks provided weren’t meant to replace the instructor, those with higher degrees rather, they are for helping guide the instructor into finding ways to lead students to learn the curriculum in a particular way: streamlined and organized.

Textbooks were also meant to be a point of guidance for professors, it’s important for the professors to understand how a textbook can supplement a course, therefore helping students become far more knowledgeable than before. Textbooks are not meant to be read for fun. They are meant to be a point of reference and allow students to take initiative of their own learning.

The expectations we have within our education system are also ignorant of personal learning styles. In most colleges the semester is crammed into 16 weeks. Meaning for some, the need to fully understand and master the material by the end is crucial for success. For others, 16 weeks isn’t enough time to fully absorb the needed information. Once the semester is over, the student then has the ability to go back and review any material necessary to completely master the next subject.

Textbooks also prove to be evidence of transition in societies over time. We have historical insight as to how different societies functioned. In the Pictorial History of the United States (1846), these books described the establishment of standards for being a better puritan. Fast forward a couple hundred years, now we don’t share the need for instructing people on becoming better puritans. We learn from our own history, challenge it, and find alternatives that meet the needs of the modern society.

It’s what the textbook can do for you and not what you do with a textbook. It provides limitless opportunities, it’s up to you.

-Pedro Ramos


The first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species sold out on the day of publication. The high demand of his works would produce six editions throughout Darwin’s lifetime, adding on relevant revisions and counterarguments.

Vander’s Human Physiology has 14 editions published, and it’s doubtful the latest edition is better than the previous one. This is compounded by the textbooks’ ridiculous prices; the American Enterprise Institute noted that the cost of college textbooks has increased by 90 percent while recreational book prices have dropped by more than 35 percent. As resourceful as college textbooks can be, they are terrible investments when the returns are compared to the costs.

The main purpose of textbooks is to provide information for the course. With the digital world at your fingertips, most of this information is on the internet for free. In fact, older editions of textbooks are available to torrent and download.

However, the best resources are teachers, who are accessible through class and office hours. Professors are the ones who create the tests and course objectives, and many students can survive a class using just the lecture notes alone. Given the plethora of alternatives, textbooks are redundant as the only point of reference.

Sure, textbooks can be trustworthy compared to anything typed up online, but their usefulness is limited within a timeframe, often within a single semester. Once the course is over, the student would never use the textbook ever again.

Other than a paperweight, textbooks are worthless unless the students enjoy reading them for fun. These types of students are unheard of; in fact, there are more students who buy textbooks and don’t even read them during the semester.

A printed dictionary is certainly useful to have, since it’s definitely more credible than any random version online, transportable anywhere (unlike Wi-Fi), and a great resource to own. But it’s definitely not worth a couple hundred bucks if it will only be used within half of a year and then become obsolete.

-Jun Lee

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