This thing has been for sale forever and the price doesn't really get lowered or anything:

Hannah Montana Stage with doll and box - $25 (San Diego)

Runner-Up for tryin' hard! Never say die!

I'm going to run with the "College Edition" theme from yesterday's intro (shame shame if'n you didn't read!) and nominate the following for a Grand Prize:

Cultural Conversations- The Presence of the Past - $15 (Normal Heights)

The poster of that ad is selling a few other textbooks, each in their own separate ad, but I picked this one because the kneejerk little deconstructivist in me gets all gnarly minded over the phrase "presence of the past." Something I'm not really excited to get into right at this point due to being a)out of practice and b)unsure if mid-blog is the proper place for anything-but-practical lit-crit to take place.

Instead, I'll talk about the frustrations I faced at the hands of the college bookstore. This was particularly problematic for me my freshman year of college since I was without income at that point in my life and dealing with a bank account balance of approximately 8 dollars for most of the year. Buying all those expe$ive textbooks was just about the last thing I could afford at the time, but it's what I had to do because I wasn't about to try and pass courses by guessing wildly at the nature of the material. I did pass on buying texts for a few classes at some points during the college career, but trying to beg, borrow, or steal the books turned out to be a bigger pain in the neck than just shelling out the dough could ever have been.

I never really had a problem buying the literature that various classes required. I mean, in the long run a book is an okay investment--might even be able to read that sucker again someday! But the textbooks, that was a bummer each and every time. They're so costly. If used books aren't an option, it's easy to pay somewhere in the vicinity of a cool c-note for a paperback book. Terrible. Can you imagine charging $87.95 for a new crime thriller in paperback? It would never fly, of course, but textbook companies foist massive production costs off on the consumer and it burns like fire and poison; particularly if said consumer is a young, unemployed, college freshman who just came off a protracted stint of fry-cookery and intellectual stagnation during the "off years" taken to sort his life out some between periods of schooling. Personal trials and tribulations aside, I think I can touch on the fairly universal experience of Textbook Resale Anxiety (TRA), which occurs among college students en masse at the end of any given college semester. Situational in origina, TRA occurs when a college student--foolishly believing the bookstore's promise to "buy back" his books at the end of the term--brings a stack of textbooks with an initial purchase value in the neighborhood of $500 to the bookstore with hopes of selling them and recouping some of the cost. After waiting in what proves to be a shockingly long line, the college student usually has the following exchange with the bookstore clerk:

STUDENT(smiling, unaware): "I'd like to sell these books back, please."

CLERK (ironically, often a fellow student): "Ok. Let me check on that."

[CLERK pushes buttons, does things with barcodes and catalogues]

CLERK: "Okay, we're not buying that one, that one, or that other one, but we can give you eight dollars for that one."

Initial onset of TRA is usually characterized at this point by waves of shock an disbelief, followed by a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach that the money spent on the expen$ive textbooks is lost and gone forever and ever. It turns out, after all, that the school isn't offering that class next term, or (if they are) the textbook has been released in a new edition. Either way renders the student's texts essentially worthless.

TRA runs its course and resolves in one of two ways:

1) The student refuses to acknowledge the trauma and maintains an illusory concept of the textbooks as valuable possessions. Said textbooks take up residence on a bookshelf in the student's (alternatively the student's parents') house and remain there, untouched, until moving them becomes a burden and they are donated to a thrift store, still somewhat under the impression that they have some value to someone.

2) The student realizes that he has been kicked in the shins (metaphorically of course), and leaves the bookstore with his stack of textbooks and dignity intact. Ideally, the student follows my own example in this situation--

--throw those suckers in trash and walk away!

More like this:


SDaniels Dec. 8, 2009 @ 3:19 p.m.

I would never throw them in the trash--not any book! Though I had a friend who did this with the book she won as a prize for her thesis. It was some highly didactic and narrowminded lameass work on women's "domestic" literary production of like, a period of five years in the 18th siecle. She was angry because she felt it was crass of them to hand out a book written by the prof who taught the honors class (badly). Thankfully, the year I won, they were not handing out this book; instead I received a $500 prize--hey, that's a whole slew of books on domestic literature!


CuddleFish Dec. 8, 2009 @ 3:19 p.m.

Wow. That's a lot of tears shed over a few textbooks. I always just shelled out the money. That's the way the game was set up. I didn't try to beat it.


SDaniels Dec. 8, 2009 @ 3:28 p.m.

Pike angst-èd:

"I picked this one because the kneejerk little deconstructivist in me gets all gnarly minded over the phrase "presence of the past." Something I'm not really excited to get into right at this point due to being a)out of practice and b)unsure if mid-blog is the proper place for anything-but-practical lit-crit to take place."

It's always a good time to flex your deconstructionist musculature, Pikenstein. There has got to be a factory somewhere, churning out textbook titles for anthro, sosh, lit, humanities, history, etc.

Alternatively, this one could have been: "Cultural Conversations Past and Presence," "Conversations of the Past: Our Cultural Presence" and "Our Cultural Presence: Our Past" and "Conversations Past of the Cultural" and "Our Cultural Past and Presence," "The Cultural Past of our Presence in Conversation."


The most Derridean of these might be: Conversations of Presence in our Cultural Past." ;)


FullFlavorPike Dec. 8, 2009 @ 4:02 p.m.

^ Abso

I like the idea of a Textbook Titular Thinktank! It could also just be a reverse IV drip from Harold Bloom's amygdala....


SDaniels Dec. 8, 2009 @ 4:09 p.m.

Pikey made me look up a word:


"An almond-shaped mass of gray matter in the front part of the temporal lobe of the cerebrum that is part of the limbic system and is involved in the processing and expression of emotions, especially anger and fear."

All definitions stress this "almond shape." Consequently, I'd leave the can of Planter's nuts at home when visiting Harold in hospital. Especially were it a mental hospital--already full of mixed nuts. (Ba-dump dah!)


SDaniels Dec. 8, 2009 @ 4:49 p.m.

Forgot to mention my technique for avoiding textbook purchases. Now, this was harder to pull off as studies became more focused, and texts more arcane, but in community college I was able to haute foot it to the library and grab copies from the shelves before the rest of the idjits in my class even decided a textbook might be a good idea. This remained a viable practice all through lit courses, when five or seven novels might be on the list. Of course street booksellers were also a godsend then, too. ;)


antigeekess Dec. 8, 2009 @ 10:10 p.m.

Re #6

I did that a few times for courses during the summer, and was able to keep the book through the whole class, and not pay a cent.

But the BEST thing that's ever happened to a college student? Behold:

For those not familiar with, it's a search engine that works for textbooks just like Shopzilla or Pricegrabber does for other stuff. It checks Amazon, Alibris, Abe, EFollett, ECampus, and everybody else you can think of, and puts the cheapest price right at the top of the list.

One minor heads up: "Chegg" will often appear at the top, and that's because Chegg offers rentals. You have to return the book at the end of the semester.

The package for my anatomy class this past spring was $180 at the bookstore. I bought the previous edition for $7.95 at BigWords.

I got an "A." :)


CuddleFish Dec. 8, 2009 @ 11:13 p.m.

Oh dang, AG, that is a good deal!!!

Wished they'd been around when I was buying my books!!!

Will pass the information on. :)


Josh Board Dec. 8, 2009 @ 11:27 p.m.

That experience at the book store was great. Especially the fact that it's a fellow student.

I remember taking a whole bunch of books to sell at a used book store in Hillcrest once. They were all in fabulous condition. They guy looked thru them all and said they had no re-sale value. And, I had already been in the mindset you mentioned. That a $50 book would get me $8, and that the hardcover $28 dollar books would bring in $5. But no, they were useless to him. I think I said something pathetic sounding like "Not even $20 for all these?" He smiled and said "Why don't you donate them?" Which is what I did.

Although, it's gotta be so much more frustrating for starving students.


Adam92102 Dec. 9, 2009 @ 3:40 a.m.

This past summer I went with an ex-girlfriend of mine to the City bookstore to get a rough estimate of her books for her 4 classes. In all, it came to roughly $800-1000. To top it off, financial aid was not sending out payments until end of September (since she was considered a first semester student... which she wasn't... longer story), which meant she couldn't afford books until after a month into her classes. Anyone else see a flaw in the aid part of financial aid?

My main point in all this is that it's ridiculous that a college education, something that actually meant a damn once, is a bigger and riskier financial burden than buying/owning a home. I mean, it turns education into a choice when it should have more value and necessity to it. And all because it costs too much, right down to the books. What a shame.


CuddleFish Dec. 9, 2009 @ 3:56 a.m.

Good points, Adam.

It does seem as though college educations have become a racket. With more and more people wanting and qualifying to go to college, you would think the prices would be going down, instead they keep going up and up, and more and more students are crowding into classes, so you are getting less value for your dollar, and ending up with astronomical debt on the chance that you may actually gain a career in the field of your choice. That may have been true before when there were fewer college grads, but now it is quite a risky investment, as you say.

I totally agree that college educations should be affordable to anyone that wants them, perhaps with the proviso that they meet some baseline qualifications criteria. Otherwise it continues to be an elitist system.


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