The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

October 7, 2012

Old textbooks become friends over time

Every now and then, I look up something in a fat little volume titled “Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, Complete Course.” It has been sitting next to my typewriters and computers since 1968.

Sister Rose Angela required her freshman English students to buy it for use in her class at Schlarman High School. I bought my second-hand copy from a sophomore named Susan Kuester.

My bookshelves are sprinkled with other books that started out as my textbooks: a government book from Schlarman; copies of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Walden” and the great British poets; a Great Books series; college journalism texts that focus on reporting, editing, printing and communications.

I didn’t appreciate them at the time, but each has become an old friend.

So I was a bit alarmed, the other day, when I read a USA Today story about how some universities are now forcing students to buy electronic textbooks (“e-textbooks”) instead of traditional textbooks.

The students simply download their texts, and read them on their computer screens.

Textbooks are expensive, so you’d think that would save students a load of money, but it doesn’t. The story noted that an organic chemistry e-book costs $100 while the print version of the same book costs $115.

E-textbooks account for about 9 percent of textbook purchases. Three years ago, Indiana University was the first to force students to buy them for selected courses. Since then, the University of California-Berkeley, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia and Cornell University have done the same.

An e-book may be more efficient and less cumbersome than a real book made of ink and paper. But in the end it’s going to cost students a lot more because they no longer will be able to sell their used books to other students or to the campus bookstore.

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