Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Better Use for Used Textbooks

Hey College Students!

If you are like me, you dread the quarterly trip to the bookstore to sell back your textbooks about as much as your A&P final (Ha! Joke's on you, I never took A&P!). Nothing is quite like the queasy, burning feeling you get in your stomach when the clerk hands you $50 for a $300 textbook that will probably be resold for 3 times the buy-back price (and which will likely be "outdated" within a year or two). I get so angry about this systematic ripping-off of starving college students and the cumulative waste of it all, that I actually have about 5 textbooks collecting dust in my basement because I didn't want to be part of their scam. But don't get me started on the overly cozy relationship between our great halls of collegiate education and the textbook publishing houses.

( ^I paid $280 bucks for this baby and they released a new edition the next year!)

"HaHA, take THAT Big Bend! You can take your $20 and stuff it! I'm going to KEEP my utterly useless textbook!" 
In any case, the good news is you now have what is, in my opinion, a FAR more rewarding option.  Books For Africa is a registered 501(3)(c) non profit organization that will take your used text books and ship them to students in Africa (surprise, surprise). They recieved a four star rating (the highest possible) from Charity Navigator and all of their financial information is available online.

The bad news is that this organization is based out of Minnesota so, unless you happen to live near St. Paul, you're going to have to pay to mail your book donations which can get a little spendy. Before you say, "Forget that! Remember the part where I'm a college student?" hear me out.

You've already invested $100-$300 on one or more textbooks that are fairly useless to you now. That $300? That's a wash, a "sunk cost" if I remember ECON 101 correctly. You may be able to get back $50 (which is pathetic but, hey its better than nothing, right?) which cuts your loss down to $250. Now, if you donate those books to a student in Africa, you are back down to your original losses and may even have to invest more of your precious resources (say 15 packs of top ramen or 133 prints at the library). BUT, they are worth FAR more than $20, $50 or even $300 to the many African students who will be able to use that textbook, for more than one year, I might add (What is it they say about scarcity and choice? Economics students, help me out here).

Okay now that I've exposed my dismally poor grasp on economics, let me try another tack. It feels good to do good. It feels good to make something precious out of something useless. It's Christmas (I suppose that was three other tacks...). It doesn't cost much and it is a good thing.

If this doesn't appeal to you, there are many other options out there. Check out the International Book Bank or Better World Books; a whole list of options is available here. See if your university bookstore already partners with any book banks and, if not, if they are willing to do so. These are incredibly easy ways to make a big impact with your "useless" textbooks and get more out of them than the $50 you can get by just selling them back.

Then you can feel good about joining me in sticking it to the Man.

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