$180 Art History Textbook at OCAD in Toronto has no Art

A mandatory $180 textbook for a first-year art history class at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto is unique in that it contains no pictures of art, having blank spaces where the art should be.  The blank spaces direct the reader to view the pictures in an ebook.  What a rip-off, eh?  Naturally, the students aren’t impressed.  You can read the full story at $180 art history text book with no art has blank spaces where the pictures should be and at $180 art history text that contains no art sparks petition on Toronto campus.

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Warning about Amazon Marketplace seller Bobbybooks_

I’ve generally had good experiences buying used textbooks from Amazon.ca marketplace sellers.  Probably 99.99% of them are honest companies or individuals who generally provide good customer service (if sometimes slow shipping from the United States).  On the other hand, there are a very small number of “bad apples” that should probably be avoided.  One of these is the seller that goes by the name “Bobbybooks_” (with a trailing underscore).

Bobbybooks_ lists over a million books, but doesn’t actually have any of those books in stock.  Rather, when you order a book from them, they order the book from AbeBooks and have it shipped to you.  Since there’s that extra time involved in having the book ordered twice and since you don’t know where the book’s coming from, you may run the risk of your book being late if you order from this seller.  You can also imagine that Bobbybooks_’s customer service will be pretty hopeless as well.  You’ll also notice that several of Bobbybooks_’s positive reviews (the earliest ones) are all from fake people.

So, save yourself the time and hassle and order from another seller.  Or,if you do find a good price for a book that Bobbybooks_ lists, just order the book from AbeBooks yourself.  You’ll save yourself both time and money.

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UW book list for Winter 2012 and other stuff

First of all, good luck to everyone on finals!

The list of books for the University of Waterloo for Winter 2012 is now available on Cheaptexts.ca, so you can just go to the home page and start searching!  Note that not all of the prices have been added yet, so you may want to check back later for more results.  Regarding WLU, we’ll have that information up shortly.

Also, wanted to say thanks to those who e-mailed us in the fall with suggestions.  Sorry we didn’t get a chance to respond personally to everyone.  A common suggestion was to have a prettier-looking interface.  We’ll be looking into having that done for January.

Another enhancement is that we’ll be putting up a sister site for Edmonton universities for January.  Stay tuned…

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Spring 2011 book lists

The list of books for Spring 2011 should be available on CheapTexts.ca now.  So, if you’re looking at the best price for books in Waterloo, go to CheapTexts.ca and have a look!

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Upcoming enhancements for Spring 2011

Another term is ending and a new one will be beginning shortly, and with that it’s time to get textbooks again. We’ll be making the following enhancements in time for May:

  • More helpful search messages when the search doesn’t return the results you’re looking for, to help you to find your book elsewhere.
  • We’ll be adding more places to look for your books.
  • A “search by author” will be added.
  • Are the listings not complete for your course?  We’ll add a page to let you add a book that’s used in your course.
  • We’ll add a list of all books used in all courses for the upcoming term.
  • We’ll be expanding cheaptexts.ca to serve students at university in a few other cities.

You’ll see these changes in place for May.  As well, reasonably-complete lists of books for Spring 2011 should be available on the site now, so feel free to start searching for your texts now!

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Four reasons (and two non-reasons) why textbooks are so expensive

Winter term is almost upon us, and with that, the semi-annual ritual of spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for university textbooks.  Why does that Biology textbook cost $200?  Why do all of my textbooks cost so much?  There are a few reasons:

  • The biggest reason why is because the market for textbooks is a captive market.  Assuming that a professor selects a certain textbook for a course, the publishers can charge almost anything they want, because students will need to buy it anyway.  Professors are often sympathetic to the plight of students buying expensive textbooks, but they don’t have the information to make a choice based on what would be easiest on students’ wallets (this sort of information isn’t readily provided by textbook salespeople).
  • Canada’s book import regulations grant Canadian publishers exclusive rights to distribute titles.  Does your bookstore want an American textbook?  They can’t get it directly from the American publisher.  They have to go to the Canadian arm of the American publisher, which imports the book and charges a 10% premium on the book for the service.  This can result in American textbooks being a lot more expensive in Canada than in the U.S.  For example, A History of the Roman People is $100.92 on Amazon.ca and $56.71 on Amazon.com.  Note that Individuals can order American books from American online retailers like Amazon.com without paying duties, although they will have to pay GST on the imported goods.  Of course, you’d have to pay GST if you bought the book in Canada anyway, so no big deal.  With the Canadian dollar above par, checking out American booksellers may be a good way of saving money.
  • Textbooks are printed using very high-quality, glossy paper and other probably-not-entirely-necessary frills.
  • Publishers put out new editions frequently and do other tricky things to ensure that the supply of used textbooks doesn’t meet demand, and so ensuring that students will continue to have to buy textbooks at the new price.

There are several other reasons often cited for why textbooks are so expensive, but some of them aren’t actually a reason:

  • The campus bookstores, while they’re obviously making money selling books (otherwise they wouldn’t bother) aren’t making as much money, percentage-wise, as you might think.
  • The professors writing the textbook, while they may make a fair amount of royalties, the royalties often don’t amount to a signficant fraction of the sale price either.
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