Are All Textbooks Actually Required?

Buying and renting textbooks at the beginning of each semester is perhaps one of the most stressful and tedious aspects of college life. Before classes start, students are able to log on to their WebAdvisor account to view the list of books needed for each course and whether or not they are required or only recommended by the professor.

While The Outlook staff understands the educational value of text books, most feel that they are unnecessary.

Because the University encourages both students and faculty to utilize the various online outlets that are provided such as eCampus, where professors have the ability to upload assigned readings, The Outlook feels as though it would be a lot easier and cheaper if professors just posted all of their readings online. In fact, one editor expressed that the college textbook is irrelevant because of all of the web-based tools that exist today.

The University library also provides online databases such as Ebsco Host that make scholarly articles, journals and other publications available to students and faculty free of charge. Some of The Outlook staff believes that professors can find the same or similar information in these databases as they can in expensive textbooks.

Other editors explained that it is not the purchasing of textbooks that is troublesome; it is the amount of times the textbook is actually put to use. "I don't want to carry around 20 pounds of dead paper weight all semester," said one editor. "If we're going to use the book more than a few times then it might be worth it."

Another editor expressed the same opinion, saying that the worst part of spending hundreds of dollars on books is when they are never used during class. They explained that a specific book was deemed required for a particular class, but even after the professor made students purchase the textbook it was never used once during the entire semester.

Not only is the process of buying or renting textbooks frustrating for some students, but returning and selling books back can be an even more discouraging experience. If for some reason a student drops or adds a class in the very beginning of the semester, textbooks rented from the University bookstore can be returned up until the end of add/drop week, with the original receipt.

However, the textbooks that come with either a special edition CD-ROM or online access code can only be returned if the plastic wrapping remains untouched. If the plastic that is used to protect these books when they are first issued to students is removed or ripped, the bookstore will not take it back. One editor experienced this personally after attempting to return a book with a little tear in the plastic.

A handful of professors at the University also write their own textbooks that they require students to purchase or rent for their classes. Not only is attaining these books a hassle, mostly because they can only be found in the University bookstore, often for more money than books from online sellers, but selling back these textbooks is also an inconvenience for many students. One editor purchased a book that was written by the professor and was only able to sell it on Chegg.com for $5.

Much like the textbooks written and assigned by professors, books that students must acquire in a certain edition also cause some controversy. Quite a few professors ask that their students purchase a specific edition of a book at the beginning of each semester and this can be a struggle in terms of both buying and selling back these particular textbooks. One editor said, "People spend so much time and money to write these books and then there is just another created the next year."

Overall, The Outlook staff understands that textbooks, when used properly and efficiently, act as important aids in the process of learning. However, the expensive prices, the difficulty that students face when it comes to selling them back, and some professors' decisions to hardly ever implement readings from the books they assign all lead most Outlook editors to wearily accept the idea of using textbooks in the classroom.