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At the start of every semester, anyone who ventures into the UMC Book Store can expect to be immediately greeted with chaos as students try frantically to purchase their required texts, trying to find them at the cheapest price possible.
With the economy suffering and students more conscious of finances than ever, some use less traditional measures of obtaining their required books.
“I didn’t even look at the price,” said Brittany Kloenne, 19, a freshman political science major who was issued a summons for shoplifting this semester. “I know [books] are expensive.”
According to CU Police Department daily blotters from Jan. 9 to Feb. 1, 18 violations were cited for shoplifting at the UMC Bookstore.
Kloenne said she had ordered the textbook from Amazon.com but couldn’t buy the supplement material online so she tried to steal the bound textbook package from the UMC Bookstore.
The College Textbook Affordability Act passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2008 aims to help students with the exact wording of: “Students enrolled in a state institution of higher education are entitled to the affordable textbooks and educational products.”
The College Textbook Affordability Act states that for bundled textbook packages, the option to buy the textbook and additional products separately must be made.
“I don’t like getting ripped off and money is definately an issue,” Kloenne said about her motivations behind the attempted theft, “as if tuition is not enough.”
Alexander Louden, a sophomore psychology major who was issued a summons this semester at the UMC Book Store for shoplifting, said he believes prices are too high as well.
“$160 for a single book?” Louden said.
Faculty members at CU said they understand how textbook prices hinder students and some say they are trying to ease the cost burden.
Professor Roger Barry, who teaches geography at CU, said he publishes two of the books he wrote in paperback versions.
“I insisted ‘Mountain Weather’ and ‘Climate’ be published in paperback,” Barry said.
Barry said he has used two of his books as required materials in the classes he teaches. He says this is his only option.
“I think (using my book) is really beneficial,” Barry said. “(‘Atmosphere, Weather and Climate’) is the only real textbook on the subject.”
Another professor on campus echoed Barry’s opinion.
“When I started teaching here, they used a standard textbook and I complained how the subject wasn’t covered in the right way,” said Nick Schneider, associate professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at CU.
Schneider said all of his complaining led to a collaboration between himself and three colleagues on a book that became “Cosmic Perspective.” This book is used in over 1,000 different courses across the country including CU. New editions are frequently produced in order to account for new discoveries and advances in the field.
This means students can’t sell back the old editions.
“Fairness is the real issue,” Schneider said. “There has been a lot of finger pointing (about textbook prices) which is partially due to the efficiency of the used book market.”
Schneider offers “Cosmic Perspective” in soft cover, with a thicker version for yearlong courses and a smaller one for semester-long courses, and as an e-book. A special online homework grading program also comes with the book.
“Textbooks have gotten more expensive because of online tools, but you can also say they have gotten more valuable,” Schneider said.
Schneider said he is often asked whether or not he sells his book at CU just to make money.
“The way I handle that is all the CU book sale royalties are donated to the department,” he said.
Schneider said he is also in support of a campus-wide policy that would reflect his personal one.
As students and professors look to the future of book sales and their actions, different perspectives provide insight to CU and the academic world.
“Well, my opinion is that the system isn’t perfect,” Louden said. “You can save and buy books online, but only if you know for sure the classes you will be taking. If anything happens, it’s a lot harder to return a book you’ve bought online. Plus, if there’s reading due the first days of class, or you need to have the book soon for some other reason, the Book Store is your best bet.”
“I think this issue is going to die down in a couple of years as students recognize the value,” Schneider said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Emily Zarka at Emily.email@example.com.