There are two types of college textbooks.
The first kind are relatively short in page length. Maybe 300 pages or so. They're usually on a specific topic that's relevant to the class they're for, or a book written by your professor and hence that you're obligated to buy. Usually they're pretty cheap, especially if you find them on Amazon.com in the used book section.
The second kind is longer, boring, generic and wildly expensive. You've probably seen these college textbooks before - or bought them. They're big books on Chemistry, Calculus, History, English and other broad subjects.
Here's my beef with them: there should be absolutely no need to buy them. They should be online - and free.
For most students when it comes to the second category of textbooks, they only need the darn things to answer homework questions, or look at examples of a particular problem for class. But here's the thing: Questions and examples in college textbooks can be easily substituted by good professors who can design their own questions and examples. You don't need a textbook to produce those!
In the meantime, a textbook that has the basics of a academic discipline can be put online. After all, why should there be a cost for basic information? All the information that is found in generic large textbooks is stuff that is already on the Internet, via sites distinguished and undistinguished. Is the information of “how to make a demand curve” some closely guarded secret? Or the “four aspects of management”? Do we really have to shell out hundreds of dollars a year to pay for information that is already stored and cited on the World Wide Web?
I realize that the cheapening of books will cause their producers to lose profit. My answer to that is this: Me and my fellow college students around the nation are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to go to college. College book makers might lose money if they cut the unnecessary production of huge textbooks that could be viewed for free, but… we college students have no money and lots of debt. There’s not a lot of sympathy for them on our part!
The books in the first category I can understand buying. They consist of knowledge specifically compiled or thought up by an author. But the others? They should be online, free of use. All the information they “teach” is available easily in a variety of different places – we shouldn’t have to dish out the money for them. Especially if all you need from them are homework questions that you can just as easily acquire by copying them from the overpriced textbook at your college bookstore, or whilst borrowing the same book from a friend, instead of buying the book outright...