In the book blogosphere we, of course, spend a lot time talking about books: what we like, where we buy them, how we organize them, and how we write about them. Today, however, I want to expand our horizons a little beyond fiction, which tends to get most of the love, and talk about textbooks!
These questions might be most relevant to college students or grads since, at least where I live, high school students are loaned textbooks by the school and are expected to return them in the same condition they received them at the end of the year. So maybe there’s not much to talk about there. But I hope even those who don’t spend a lot of time with or talking about textbooks can find something of interest in this discussion.
Where do you buy your textbooks?
Personally, I always do that dance where I look all over and compare prices and see whether paying one dollar less for a used book is worth passing up a brand new book. I only like books in great condition, so I’m not willing to buy a book with highlighting and writing even if it’s vastly cheaper than a book without markings. In the end, I tend to find what I’m looking for from independent sellers on Amazon, books that have a “used” price but are in “like new” condition. (Though every semester I seem to encounter one book that no one sells and is strangely only available from the campus bookstore!)
Do you write in your textbooks?
I prefer keeping my books pristine, so notes in my textbooks happen in two instances:
- Foreign language classes, where I write down difficult vocabulary translations, and where I sometimes summarize novel plots in the margins. I’m not at a level where I can skim books in Spanish or Latin the way I can in English, so plot notes help me find relevant passages more easily.
- I’m running out of time and it’s faster to write in the book than to take notes. In literature classes, taking notes often involves marking down plot points so you know what part of the novel you’re talking about. Sometimes, writing notes in the margin, directly next to said plot point, can save valuable time for a harassed student!
Do you tend to keep your textbooks?
I majored in English, so a fair number of my “textbooks” were actually novels. I assume the same will be true as I enter grad school for English literature. Novels I always keep. Actual textbooks, I usually sell back (and, again, I usually get the best prices from Amazon, though once in a while Barnes & Noble does offer me a better deal). Sometimes I hesitate about selling and think, “But I may want to reference this book one day!” Then I realize that if I ever want know, say, how to do a differential equation again the future, I’m far more likely to look it up online than I am to search around in a textbook.