A fable about bookbuying: Don’t squander your funds if you can get away with it

By Jason Lewis

There is a fable about a skunk that had to buy textbooks for her already outrageously-priced classes. It is an obscure tale that didn’t make it onto Wikipedia, so I can’t recall what the moral of the tale was, exactly. All that I remember is that the lesson was: don’t buy books. Because it is bookbuying season, I will try to piece together the important bits as best I can. It went something like this:

The skunk, call her Harold (yes, Harold is a girl), needed books. She bought her books from the bookstore, as all freshmen do. As the year got under way, Harold carried her books to class everyday for the first two weeks.

After that, Harold only opened her books in the comfort of her own room, and, even then, she couldn’t find a coaster. When the end of the semester came, Harold went to sell her $700 worth of books back. She walked away with enough money for a train ride home and a smoothie.

Harold was frustrated that she had wasted so much money on buying books, so she decided that she would buy them online. She went to Web sites like Half.com and Amazon.com. She was able to save about 50 percent on her textbooks for the next semester.

It was like Christmas for Harold in that she felt like she got half of her books for free and it was December 25. However, when the semester began, she had not received two of her books.

Harold felt guilty not being able to carry a textbook to class for the first two weeks, so she went to the local bookstore and bought the two books that had not come in yet. This put her spending at slightly more than she had spent the first semester, since, by this time, there were no used books to buy.

At the beginning of the next semester, Harold, a sophomore now, decided that she did not need to buy coasters for her new apartment instead of textbooks.

As classes began, Harold made her way to lecture feeling rebellious without her textbooks. Nobody said a word. All semester, Harold attended classes without ever being called out on not having her books.

The notes for the class were online, the homework was on handouts, and Harold was able to afford her newly-developed alcoholism.

That is about the gist of the story. I tried it out once for myself, and it works. There was only one assignment given from the book all semester in one of my classes. The best part was, the return window on textbooks is generally longer than deadline for the assignment would require.

Textbooks, as it turns out, only do three things for a student:

They act like five-month Certificates of Deposit with a -70 percent annual percentage yield.

They provide enough profit to keep multiple stores in operation.

They look very nice on bookshelves, whether they are stacked upright or horizontally.

Beyond those three functions, there is very little place for mandatory texts on this campus. If you like to read textbooks for fun, then have at it. However, if you only buy them because you are supposed to, then you are just playing into the Man’s hand.

In conclusion, bookbuying is something that confronts every student. If you have to buy books, for one reason or another, then just remember to weigh your options – literally.

Bookstores are, item for item, more expensive than online shopping, but due to the unreliability of anonymous sellers, you may end up spending as much or more to get your copy of Introduction to Sociology.