I’m doing a budget for the coming school year (aka figuring out how much money I can spend on Thai takeout/going to shows/clothes/other fun stuff whilst still having enough to feed myself) and have general figures for all my expenses except books. Could you give me a ball-park estimate of what a first-year Humanities student should expect to spend on books? I’m taking an economics course, a german course, and three social sciences courses, if that helps.
Before I answer your question, I want to say that… in the first week of class you will receive a course syllabus from your Prof. This will list the exact required readings for the course, and where you can pick them up – officially. Generally, it is not a good idea to buy your books before attending your first class. It’s common for students to switch up courses in the first week. You don’t want to have spent a billion dollars on books for courses that you ain’t takin’. Then again, you could avoid bookstore lineups by going early for courses that you know you MUST take.
But for now, for you… an estimate of book costs… yes. Let’s get down to business.
There are two ways to answer your question:
The standard response is… one thousand dollars. This is a very rough estimation, based on an equally approximate average of $200 per full course, or $100 per half course. Again, this is rough math (the only kind a humanities student like you really knows). Also, Humanities course books will certainly be cheaper than Science courses, namely because there are no goggles or lab coat required to read Shakespeare. What I am basing these numbers on? The word of a financial aid advisor, costs of books at the U of T bookstore, personal experience, and the positioning of the moon in the seventh house.
If you want a more accurate estimate of your course book costs, you can try to find out the prices for each course. I did some investigative work based on what you said you’re taking.
ECO100Y: Intro to Economics: for the Summer offering of this course, the U of T bookstore sold the course pack for $145.50.
GER100Y: Intro to German I: the German Department actually publishes its 2009-10 course syllabi online (amazing). The required textbook is listed there, and costs $45 on amazon.com. If it is sold at the Bookstore it will cost more. I promise.
POL103Y: Canada in Comparative Perspective: the Bookstore sold this book for $100 for the Summer offering of the course. Amazon.com is selling it for $95. Wooo. There is also a course reader (a bound collection of journal articles) that is required and typically costs around $100.
POL108Y1: Global Networks: last year’s course had three required readings that are available at the U of T Women’s Bookstore (where all the cool books are). Online they cost $10 + $10 + $15. Weekly readings are actually posted (for free) on the course website. Double wooo.
SOC101Y: Intro to Sociology: Prof. Brym actually designated a series of his OWN books as required readings. This is a moderately irritating cash grab, but then again, if you ain’t a Rotman Prof you ain’t exactly ballin’. The costs on the publisher’s website are: $104 + $60 + $23 = $187. You also need to buy an “iClicker” from the Bookstore for $35 – which is all the rage in Con Hall these days.
Okay! I’m exhausted. The point in doing all of this research is less about giving you exact monetary sums, and more about showing you the different ways of finding out what + how much your books are. Got it Watson?
Now, that was an “official” response to the issue of buying books… but the starving student response is… considerably cheaper. Below is a list of alternative methods/tips for getting your course books without succumbing to the inflated prices of the man.
a) Check out the library system: U of T’s library collection is friggin huge (the plus side of being at a massive university). Depending on how large your course is and how frequently the readings are required, you may be able to get by signing them out. Typically, Profs will put a few copies of a course reader in the “course reserves” section of the library. This limits your sign-out period to a day or two, or maybe the books can’t leave library. You can photocopy select readings from these if you want too.
b) Differentiate between required and recommended readings: when you’re poor… the word “recommended” takes on a new meaning – if you catch my drift. Usually these books are only useful if you are totally struggling, you are an ultra-keener, or for when you are writing essays.
c) Locate second hand bookstores. There is one across from the bookstore on College St. They have new and used books, and they are cheaper. Just find out if the editions are the same (they change very minimally every other year or so… just to milk us for more money). The Prof will tell you if an older edition will suffice.
d) Buy books directly from students who have taken the course last year. You will often find advertisements in res bulletin boards. Check these out even if you don’t live there.
e) As suggested before, ordering from amazon.com, or directly from the publisher may be cheaper… depending on the shipping cost.
f) This may or may not be illegal… buuuut you can possibly photocopy a library’s copy of the entire textbook. Here’s what you do: get your hands on a copy of the textbook from the library, gather up a bunch of friends/acquaintances in your course, take the book to a local copy centre (the less mainstream, the better), and order as many copies as required. Why is this awesome? It’s waaay cheaper. Your fellow copyright infringers and you will become instant fugitives… I mean friends. And your version will come in a coiled binding that you won’t feel bad about defacing with highlighting and scribbles.
If I had even half of a moral in my body I would NOT suggest this on a University-sponsored forum, like askastudent. Lucky for you I don’t. So do it, but don’t go telling people I told you to. Do we understand each other?! I thought so.
The flipside to buying cheap books is selling old books. Post ads in residences or sell them back to the bookstore. This is actually quite a viable option. Apparently you can get back up to 50% of the original cost.
Will all the money that you save on books might I suggest spending it this way….
Indian takeout from Banjara
Muchos nachos at the Green Room (beware of funky draught beer)
Performances by the Drama Program at the Helen Garpheghasdfhgeklfns Playhouse
Streetcar + ferry ride + bike rental + picnic on Toronto Island
Get fancy and have one drink at Panorama (a better view than the CN tower will offer… because you can actually see the CN tower)
Classic/Alternative/Delayed movies at the Bloor Cinema (get a membership)