College Textbooks Could Get a Lot Cheaper in the Future

iStock
iStock

The cost of college tuition continues to soar and national student loan debt tops $1.5 trillion, but here’s a small consolation for degree-seekers: The cost of academic textbooks could start coming down, according to an article by professors Jenny Adams and Michael Ash for The Conversation.

The price of new textbooks has tripled since 1982, even though the cost of “recreational books” has fallen by nearly 40 percent in roughly the same time span (and yes, inflation was taken into account). So why are textbooks so expensive? As it turns out, technology has partly contributed to the problem. A small number of publishers monopolize the textbook industry, and new technological platforms have allowed them to release new editions more quickly and more frequently, rendering used editions obsolete. Newer electronic books also tend to come with doodads like access codes, which prohibit sharing.

Hope is on the horizon, though, because the textbook industry appears to be in a state of flux. For one, many students have discovered that they can find older versions of the textbooks they need in PDF format on websites like 4shared.com. And even though there are restrictions on sharing materials, many students do it anyway—and some professors have even started posting free content on course websites.

Other students have figured out that textbooks are priced differently in different global markets, and have hacked the system by ordering textbooks from locations where they’re sold at cheaper prices. As an example, The Conversation cites the textbook Economics by Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, which sells for about $206 on Amazon and roughly $6 in India.

This, of course, is not sustainable for the textbook industry—and at various points in history, schools have been forced to take action to provide their students free or affordable access to information. In medieval times, for example, some manuscripts were priced at six and a half pounds (between $10,000 and $100,000 in today's money), and were often used as collateral for loans. Universities eventually introduced the pecia system (after the Latin for "piece"), in which stationers kept copies of textbooks and scribes were hired out to copy only the selections students needed for classes. And in the 16th century, after the printing press had been introduced, book prices started to drop. Adams and Ash believe that history may repeat itself once again.

Nowadays, many universities are already using more open-source textbooks written by faculty, and some experts have proposed alternatives, like publicly funded textbooks that would be available to all, or using their massive buying power to hold down prices.

So while students may have to continue being resourceful for a little while longer, it's likely that future students “might enjoy more regulated and lower textbook prices than this current generation,” The Conversation argues.

[h/t The Conversation]

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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200 Rare Books Were Stolen in a Thrilling Heist—Three Years Later, They’ve Been Found Buried in Romania

The books were wrapped a little better than these.
The books were wrapped a little better than these.
Alen Makota/iStock via Getty Images

In January 2017, a pair of agile bandits cut holes in the roof of a London warehouse, rappelled down shelves—steering clear of motion sensors—and absconded with 16 bags of rare books worth about $3.2 million. The mission took about 5 hours to complete, and by 2:15 a.m., the perpetrators had fled the scene in a getaway car, which they bleached clean before deserting. The stolen cache of tomes included first edition works by Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo, and Francisco Goya, and an international coalition of investigators from the UK, Italy, and Romania (plus additional help from European Union forces) has spent more than three years trying to recover it. Now, they finally have.

As The Guardian reports, Romanian police officers located around 200 missing volumes all carefully wrapped and buried in an underground cement pit inside a house in Neamț County, Romania. The crime wasn’t an isolated incident; the thieves are members of a Romanian organized crime gang linked to a number of similar warehouse heists. According to a statement from London’s Metropolitan Police, they’ve managed to elude capture for so long partly because they pilfer abroad, but also because they don’t keep evidence on them for very long (the warehouse operatives pass their spoils on to cohorts and quickly leave the country).

For this particular crime, however, they were sloppy. Investigators discovered DNA on one of the vehicle’s headrests, which helped lead to the arrest of 13 people involved in the book burglary and related crimes. That was in June 2019; it took another 15 months to track down the books themselves.

“This recovery is a perfect end to this operation,” London detective inspector Andy Durham said in a statement. “These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage.”

[h/t The Guardian]