Why Do You Need Me to Buy This Book?

Twenty-six Dollars for a 30-Page Reading Is a Scam

Professors should consider whether textbooks are really worth the price students are paying. Photo Ivan de Jacquelin

When I was preparing for my courses this year, I went through the different required texts for my classes and bought those indicated as “required”  in my syllabi—as one does.

For one of my classes, we were assigned to read a story titled “Fantomina,” for sale at the bookstore for $26.75, plus tax. I bought it, assuming in good faith that, since it was written “REQUIRED,” I actually needed it.

Well, “Fantomina” was assigned to read for the second week of school and turned out to be a 30-page reading that I completed in under an hour. Minimum wage is set at $14.25 as of September 2022. This means that my professor made us buy a book that, to his discretion, was worth two whole hours of labour for the working class student. Two hours of labour spent on 30 pages, just because he wrote a silly “required” in the syllabus. This a blatant sign that education continues to exclude the working class, that under the pretense of being “for all,” it hides its inaccessibility. 

To make matters worse, “Fantomina” was published in 1775, making this story public domain. If my professor had the decency to simply upload the 30-page PDF to the class’ Moodle site, he would have spared the entire class this unnecessary expense. It is disrespectful of him to have made us buy this book.

In retrospect, I could have taken the time to look up this story and its page count. I could have resolved not to buy it. But I have never found this precautionary measure necessary since, in the past, my professors had enough empathy for their students to make most of the readings accessible through Moodle, thus minimizing the books we had to buy.

I am appalled at this situation. Though I am lucky that this expense did not strain my budget, I am primarily insulted by my professor’s neglect of students’ money. Faculty need to realize that by making education unnecessarily expensive, they are making it exclusive to those who can afford it. Education isn’t for all unless it is free.