Students are finding creative ways to buy their textbooks

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By Jonathan Bradley

Hassan Elahi, a third-year business management student, refuses to buy new textbooks. 

“Anyone that buys new textbooks is a moron,” said Elahi. “You can buy them almost 50 per cent cheaper second hand, and they’re virtually the same.” 

“I’m not graded on the sexiness of my textbook. I’m graded on how well I perform in my classes.” 

Ryerson students started classes last week and many may be concerned about their expenses this school year; one of the largest being the price of their textbooks. 

The Canadian Federation of Students said that the average post-secondary student in Canada spends about $500 to $1,000 for textbooks and course materials each semester. The students who pay the most for textbooks are those in engineering and applied sciences. 

Similarly, Ryerson lists the average cost of textbooks and supplies for a first-year arts and science student as anywhere between $700 to $1,500. 

Elahi said that the average amount he spends on textbooks each semester is $300. He buys used textbooks from people in Ryerson Facebook groups and sometimes from the used textbook store on Victoria Street. 

He said that he has found textbooks online and from people in group chats, who “out of kindness” sends for everyone to access. 

“You may risk getting a virus, but I’d rather get a virus than pay a monopolist’s insane markup value for their poorly written textbook.” 

Macleans reported in 2017 that Ryerson ranked 28th on the list of most expensive schools for textbooks at $774.11. 

Students can buy new textbooks from the Ryerson University campus store, and can purchase used textbooks for 25 per cent off their original price.

Ryerson students can also buy textbooks from BMV Books, a discount textbook store with five locations in Toronto. Mike Murray, the manager of BMV Books Annex, said this store has multiple titles that are relevant and in suitable condition. 

“All of our books are priced at 50 per cent or less of the cover price unless they are a collectible or a new release,” said Murray. 

Murray said that a problem BMV Books faces with selling used textbooks is textbook publishers releasing new editions. 

“New editions of textbooks mean that it can be difficult to sell older editions because the interest is not there for them,” said Murray. “In other cases, it means that we could still sell an older edition, but at a much lower price than a newer one.”

Lauren Sciacchitano-Dunlap, a third-year medical physics student, said that the average amount she spends on textbooks each semester is $390. 

“I always try to resell my textbooks, and I usually sell them for half the price of the new textbook regardless of if I bought the book new or not,” said Sciacchitano-Dunlap. 

Sciacchitano-Dunlap said that she always tries to buy used textbooks first, which she has often found online. 

“I check Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji first, and then I look on Amazon Marketplace,” she said. “Amazon Marketplace gets a little more complicated, because you have to make sure the seller is in Canada, or it’s going to take five years to ship.” 

Elahi said it is important that there are multiple different options for buying textbooks. 

“If there aren’t any competitors… the Ryerson bookstore would be able to charge even higher prices,” he said. “Assume that a book costs $100 at the Ryerson bookstore and the used bookstore sells it for $50. Eventually, the Ryerson bookstore would have to lower its prices or provide incentives in order to stay in business.”

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