September 20, 2008

Getting Rich Quick (a follow-up)

After much stomping around and desk-clearing, I've finally tracked down all of my receipts in order to see exactly how much I've spent on textbooks this year. There's a lot to keep track of; since writing my initial post, I visited three more bookstores as well as the original ones another two or three times.

I'm going to give all of the stores initials so that we can  keep track:

  • BMBR -- Campus store. Loathe.

  • BMV -- Discounted & used books. Usually my first choice.

  • DB -- Local used books. Self-proclaimed "world's messiest bookstore" for 7th year running.

  • TBE -- Right next door to DB. Neurotically neat and a bit pricier; a mix of used and new texts.

  • PDB -- The least local of the three local places; lots of CDs as well as books.

Here's the damage, starting with the most un-loved BMBR:

  1. Three Late Medieal Morality Plays, ed. G. A. Lester. $18

  2. What Maisie Knew, by Henry James. $16

  3. Statements, by Athol Fugard. $15

  4. Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih. $30

  5. Death and the King's Horseman, by Wole Soyinka. $17

  6. The Palm-wine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, by Amos Tutuola. $19

  7. Anna of the Five Towns, by Arnold Bennett. $20

  8. Nervous Conditions, by Tsitsi Dangarembga. $24

Total: $159
Average price: $20


  1. Arrow of God, by Chinua Achebe. $7

  2. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. $8

Total: $15
Average price: $7.50


  1. Waiting for the Barbarians, by J. M. Coetzee. $5

  2. Midaq Alley, The Thief and the Dogs, and Miramar, by Nagib Mahfouz. $11

Total: $16
Average price: $8


  1. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

  2. Ulysses, by James Joyce.

  3. Othello, by William Shakespeare.

  4. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie.

Total: $20 (books were not individually priced)
Average price: $5


  1. Under Western Eyes, by Joseph Conrad. $7

  2. The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai. $9

Total: $16
Average price: $8

Now, in all of these calculations I have rounded to the nearest dollar (usually rounding up from .95 or .99) and I have left out books purchased for pleasure rather than school... of which there have been a goodly number as well. Probably I'd have to add about another $40 or $50 to these numbers. (Because when you're spending $80 or $100 or $120 already, what's another book or three?). Oh, plus another $70 for two french textbooks in a private sale. I forgot about those. So let's call it $350 on books this month, all told.

But you can see the difference, can't you? At the used bookstores, the average price per book is just over $7. At the campus store, the average price per book is a solid $20. That adds up really, really fast. It's an incredible racket.

The most outrageous was Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North. It's 169 pages long, has a large and kinda crummy print, and it cost $30. That's 18 cents per page (yes... I actually bothered to figure this out). By contrast, a typical new mass-market paperback should cost something like $0.03/page (assuming a $12 cost and 400 pages, which is typical for a thickish mystery or suchlike). So ridiculous.

In conclusion, blah blah blah I hate the campus bookstores.

You other students -- how has this season been for your pocketbooks thus far?


glumpuddle said...

A point of clarity - the BMBR is not *really* a campus bookstore, it is an independent, off campus book-seller, through whom many Pretentious English Profs order their book lists. I'm not claiming you'd get a better deal if the PEP ordered their books through the actual campus stores, mind, just pointing out that BMBR is meant to be a cheaper, non-university place to get texts -- though it doesn't work out does it?
In theology most profs order their book lists through another independent outfit, CB, which loudly proclaims itself to be a DISCOUNT bookshop - and it actually usually is.
I remember the grim days of undergraduate engineering - when we often dropped 80-100 bucks (and this was more than 20 years ago) per book, especially once you got into specialized (read Aerospace) texts.

Christine said...

That's true -- it is not technically a campus store. But because nearly all the English books get ordered there, and because they're just as expensive as the actual Campus Bookstore, I treat them as a just-as-irritating offshoot of such.

raych said...

BRUtal. My first text was one I couldn't find used ANYwhere, and which was totally necessary. $140 for a 200-page softcover. *pulls knife from kidneys* The rest of my texts I was able to get used and none were over $30. I miss taking English courses so that I can hit all the used book stores and ravage their 'classics' sections.

Christine said...

Ow ow ow. Que c'est horrible. You win (and lose). said...

I know what you mean...I just bought my 2 books at the college bookstore and I dropped $273. I came back home and did some research and found that I could order these books online (used) for approximately $100. Needless to say...I am ordering the books online and returning the ones to the bookstore!!!