Buying Textbooks by the Chapter- Is It a Good Idea?

It’s been an issue for quite some time now and students are complaining now more than ever about the high costs of textbooks. It’s even more upsetting to students when professors require the purchase of an expensive textbook and then only use a portion of it throughout the semester. With the high costs of textbooks being an on-going complaint, even after recent federal legislation called on the colleges to list the costs of required readings, only using a portion of the textbooks makes matters worse. But now, textbook publishers are offering students the option to buy required books electronically by the chapter for lower prices, according to an article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

It works pretty much the same way Apple’s iTunes store does, so students familiar with the iTunes process may see the option as a logical step. McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education are some of the investors in the start-up company named Inkling, which offers versions of the book by the chapter or as a whole. Another company, Cengage Learning is also offer students the opportunity to purchase the book or chapters of various books in PDF format through its website. Whether this route actually saves students money will depend on how many chapters of the book will need to be purchased and when using Inkling, whether or not the student already has an iPad, as the company sells versions for the iPad.

With the 10th edition of Sylvia S. Mader’s Biology textbook published by McGraw-Hill being one of the books offered on Inkling, the book has 47 chapters and the company sells the chapters for $3.99 each and gives one chapter for free. Students also have the option of buying the entire textbook on the iPad version for $129.99, with the hardcover edition retailing for $185. Obviously, savings are only possible if professors only assign portions of the book rather than assigning the purchase of the entire book. And other economic arguments stand with others arguing that buying chapters online isn’t that economic either as students will not be able to sell their books back to the bookstore and make some of their money back.

While the idea seems cost-effective to students and most students would be more than likely to purchase their textbooks by chapter to save money, some professors worry that only purchasing a few chapters of their textbooks to read what they need to will encourage students to not be as connected with the field and their material. Those worries, though, are also met with optimism that students will return to textbooks for later references. It may just really have to come down to each individuals comparing what scenario would be best for them, as it would be hard to say whether purchasing a hard copy textbook or chapters available for electronic reading on a iPad would be better for students as a whole without knowing textbook prices, professor assignments, and how many of those students already have iPads.

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