Swapping pages for pixels to save on textbooks

Josh Kolm / Ryersonian Staff

Josh Kolm / Ryersonian Staff

Ryerson University student Jeremey Ponrajah proves he’s both book and street smart by finding a way around spending his cash on expensive textbooks: he finds course materials online.

It’s a much more affordable avenue considering the costs of textbooks which, according to Common University Data Ontario, can cost an undergraduate student in an arts or science program anywhere from $700 to $1,500 per year.

Finding resources online is becoming a popular trend among many Ryerson students. Third-year RTA student Shreya Khanna also cut costs by searching the web.

“Because I’m taking an older English class, I realized all those books end up being public domain.”

Ponrajah, a third-year economics student, said he could easily spend over $1,000 a year on textbooks from the campus bookstore, but he downloads most of his books through torrent sites.

And although Ponrajah considers himself a tech-savvy student, he’s confident almost anyone could find the books online.

“Google is your best tool,” he said.

Amir Eftekarpour, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), said post-secondary students are already faced with rising tuition fees.

“Out of financial need, some students refrain from buying textbooks,” he said.

But cash-strapped students might not be the only ones who find the digital format appealing.

“Most publishers in Canada are looking to move entirely online within five years,” said Eftekarpour.

OUSA recently met with the Canadian Publisher’s Council and learned of the publisher’s plan to reduce the number of print textbooks it produces.

“(Digital textbooks) are a very integrated learning experience. It’s an online textbook but it also has integrated tutorials,” said Eftekarpour.

But the transition from print to digital textbooks does pose a few problems.

Google is your best tool.

-Jeremey Ponrajah

For one, students won’t have the opportunity to resell digital material like they do with physical textbooks.

Reading textbooks online may not appeal to everyone, but that doesn’t mean students can’t save money.

Used bookstores offer discounted course material and the university’s campus bookstore has a limited selection of titles that can be rented for the term.

“(It’s) $50 for the semester instead of buying [the book] for one hundred and something dollars,” said Ponrajah.

For others, buying a hard copy brand new is worth it.

“I don’t like getting a used book people have highlighted in,” said hospitality and tourism student Tanika Butler. “And sometimes you buy the books at the used bookstore but then you realize you have the wrong edition. It’s just easier to come in and buy it.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on September 18, 2013.

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