What a ripoff

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February 1, 2007

9:39 PM

With the dawn of the 20th century, the world experienced the death of the novel as a genre; the 21st century ushered in the death of the book as a medium.

p. You can say books have become obsolete. The other day, my roommate Seth and I went to the College Bookstore and, although we were there for books, it seemed more like a local souvenir shop. You’d be lucky if you walked into a real bookstore now that is devoid of a Starbucks, doesn’t have a souvenir department, and sells more books than CDs, DVDs or audio books.

p. These days, higher learning comes at a pretty price. The bookstore charged me around $450 for the handful of books I managed to find. And the whole “used books” deal is no good. It’s all a scam — all you get is a two or maybe three-dollar discount. Hell, one of the books had a difference of about 20 cents. Another cost about four dollars more than the new copy. I don’t know. That last one didn’t make much sense to me. And their return policy is shit. Their deadlines are pretty lame. They don’t even give you a full 30 days to return the books.

p. Like my roommate, most students are buying textbooks online, through Half.com, sin.wm.edu or a myriad of other websites. I checked sin.wm.edu and found that, of the 20-odd books I needed, none of my required books were posted. On Half.com I was dismayed to realize that, when you figure the shipping time and fee into the increasingly expensive equation, you don’t really save all that much money. Seth personally recommended Craigslist.com, where you can find all the used books you will possibly need (they also sell used bikes, used movies and used clothes).

p. So college education comes with a cost. Probably because nobody reads anymore, publishers find it necessary to transform ordinary books into attention-grabbing, limited-criterion-collection-exclusive-edition-eyecandy-eyepopping-eyesores, a rather futile attempt to bring the book back. This, in turn, makes it increasingly difficult for those who do enjoy reading to find what they are looking for: a plain old book.

p. The scant texts available at the souvenir shop that calls itself a college bookstore are too ornate and arbitrarily priced. Today’s standard books need to have more than mere words on a page. Your general, off-the-counter book must be double bound and aesthetically eye-catching. It also must come with a DVD-ROM, include at least four pages of color pictures and accommodate at least 12 blank, acid-free pages for notes. And it must cost at least $30 to be considered a highbrow-friendly, intellectually-arousing text.

p. Of the books at the souvenir shop, well, they fall substantially below par. Did you know that you can purchase a copy from the Weird U.S. Collection for only $20? Did you know they had a whole series? For every state? Some having two or three volumes? Jesus. Or those “Philosophy of” books. You can find a Philosophy of the Simpsons, Seinfeld, Star Wars, Sopranos, Lord of the Rings, Family Guy, Dummies and soon a Philosophy of the Illiterate (this comes in DVD format).

p. The truth is that people don’t read books anymore. Only a proud handful of students read the books they invariably spend fortunes on. The rest rely on Sparknotes, read their instructors’ notes or cheat, returning their untouched books at a reduced price at the end of the semester. I guess that’s why the used books are so damn expensive — because they’ve yet to be cracked open.

p. __Sherif Abdelkarim, a sophomore at the College, is a Staff Columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of The Flat Hat.__

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