Photo Finish: Used Textbook Central

It’s a ritual that’s become part of the start of every semester – students bargain hunting for textbooks.

First stop is often a crowded pinboard covered with ads for books students are hoping to resell.

Fjoraldi Zguro, a student at Kingsborough Community College, snapped a photograph of KCC students sifting through the ads on a board in early January. “I saw this scene several times, but I didn’t have my camera with me,” says Zguro, who was a journalist in his native Albania and plans to attend Baruch College to study marketing. “. . . after I saw it, I tried to sell books that I bought in the first semester.”

One year of textbooks can cost a student between $700 and $1,000, and CUNY has been trying to help offset the expense. In 2009, as part of the Student Financial Aid Initiative, the University spent $2 million on textbooks that are held at college libraries. Fourteen thousand print volumes have circulated a total of more than 850,000 times, and 71,000 electronic books have been accessed over 370,000 times, says University librarian Curtis L. Kendrick.

This fall, the University will launch another $5 million Student Financial Aid Initiative and some of that money will be used to purchase more textbooks. “Providing copies of textbooks in our libraries is useful for students, but does not address the fundamental problem: the textbook industry is what has been called, a broken market,” says Kendrick. “The University has supported several initiatives aimed at changing the dynamic of the industry by promoting open-access materials and/or bypassing textbooks altogether. As more faculty choose to move away from traditional print-based textbooks, it will likely be advantageous to our students.” “Textbook Savings”

Photo credit: Fjoraldi Zguro