Public Comment

Commentary: The Cost of Textbooks

By David Kamola
Tuesday September 04, 2007

I am a student at Berkeley City College and am quite distressed at the cost of books, especially the ones sold in the schools own bookstore, and one policy in particular which I feel is totally unfair: the buy-back and return policy. As students, we have seen the results of state budget cuts with fewer classes, the increase in fees and the painfully high cost of our textbooks, no teaching supplies and more, but to be ripped off by our own school is terrible. First, if I buy let’s say a $100 book and return it, still wrapped four days later the bookstore will pay me only $50 for it, then turn around and sell it again for $100 to the next unsuspecting student. That has got to be criminal, but what’s worse is returning your old textbooks.  

The book I buy for $65 at the beginning of the semester the bookstore will buy back for 50 cents, then resell it as used for $40. The BCC Bookstore generates over $100,000 per year and I am unable to find out from anybody here what the mark-up rate is or who is even responsible for this thieving policy. Due to my financial situation I applied for a book voucher program here, they gave me a voucher good only at the schools bookstore for $175...can you guess how many books I can get? If you said more than two, you’re wrong, some people can get only one book. There are alternatives of course: online shopping can cut costs by 50% or more, but in many cases delivery can take several weeks and put the student quite behind in classwork, affecting performance and motivation.  

You would think another alternative would be the school library. Wrong. For a class of 30 students you might be lucky to find one textbook on reserve, if it hasn’t been stolen. I have found for many of my classes the required reading simply doesn’t exist. Our book stacks are less than half full! So I go to a school that gouges its students with insane book prices and policies, an empty library and teachers who use road maps from AAA to teach history. 

For many of us this will be our only college experience. What are they preparing us for? I’ve got a clue but I am too polite to say it. I need help and at least got a little something, and while its sounds like I may be unappreciative, I really am. I am not the only student with this problem, there are 5,000 non-represented students. I somewhat envy the Cal students who at least have Mr. Worthington working with them, but where’s Dona Spring or whoever is our district’s councilmember? What about the mayor? I think both have come to our city’s community college once; they don’t support us at all. Who will care for us? Who will shed light on the policies of buying and selling books here? Who is there that can help us and is there any hope? In such a beautiful building that cost millions of dollars, it is dismally bleak inside.  


David Kamola is a Berkeley City College student.