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The High Cost of Used Textbooks

January 08, 1987

The high cost of college textbooks is not a new problem. The solution at my school, City College of New York, and in my day, the early '60s (although the solution had already been in effect for many years), was a used-book exchange operated by the students during the opening weeks of the semester.

Students with books to sell would pay a small fee, 15 cents per book in those days, and provide a stamped self-addressed envelope. Books were sold at 75% of the new book price; 50% for books in poor condition. Nearly all books were sold and checks for the full sales price were mailed to the sellers. The few unsold books were returned. Under this system, buyers of the used books could recover nearly their full cost when they sold the books the next semester.

The used book exchange was successful because student members of two campus service organizations volunteered their time to make it work. Those were the days when the President of the United States could say "Ask not what your country can do for you . . . " and be greeted by a surprisingly large number of volunteers rather than by waves of derision.

In short, as with many other problems, this one can be viewed as an opportunity by those intent on finding a solution.

HOWARD GLASS

Orange

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