Eyeing textbook options


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UI senior Taryn Smith wants to save money on her textbooks.

And with a possible increase in tuition next fall and a $100 surcharge this semester, some students are looking to do the same.

While many students still choose to purchase their textbooks in bookstores, an increasing number are buying them online, sharing, or downloading versions of text on the Internet.

Smith said she is planning on going to the bookstore to see which books she needs and then searching for them on amazon.com.

“I did it last semester and found that the books were cheaper, even with the shipping,” she said.

Some instructors at the UI have taken notice of the higher textbook prices and consider them a factor in what books to assign.

Michael Sposi, a teaching assistant who leads a Principles of Microeconomics class, said he looks for cheaper textbooks to help his students. He also tries to use books that have electronic versions associated with software he uses in class to lessen the cost even more.

“We are very sensitive to the price of textbooks,” psychology Professor Michael O’Hara wrote in an e-mail.

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Students are free to purchase cheaper versions, such online texts, he said, and he tries to use one text for several semesters so students have access to used books. Many textbooks create new editions frequently, and as they become available, it is harder to sell back books as well as buy used.

Psychology Assistant Professor Julie Gros-Louis is using the second edition of a textbook for her Introduction to Developmental Science class, even though the third-edition is available.

And some professors are going further, eliminating the need for hard-copy textbooks altogether.

This semester, General Microbiology students will use an online book. The one-year subscription of the book costs $30, a savings of $29.88 from the hard copy.

Richard Shannon, the general manager of the University Bookstore, said store officials are looking into what they can do to make more books available online.

Though no sales numbers were available Monday, he said, he was aware of the increasing number of ways for students to get books. Store officials are also looking into electronic versions of textbooks, which would involve selling the codes for students to use online to access texts.

Federal legislation, effective July 2010, will require textbook publishers to submit specific price information to professors, exposing bookstore markups. Also, software and textbook bundles will be made available unbundled and sold separately at the professors’ requests.

But though professors are taking prices into account, they still want to provide the best book available.

“I would never assign an expensive textbook when a cheaper one would suit my course design just as well,” journalism Associate Professor Don McLeese wrote in an e-mail. “But I wouldn’t assign a book just because it’s cheap, in the name of cut-rate education.”

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