Just in time for college, count on the Internet to artfully remind you that all the meaning you once found in Hegel, Marx, and Kant will one day be reduced to propping up your televsion.
A photo posted to Reddit on Friday hit close to home for a lot of post-grads, garnering 64,000 upvotes. Titled “$1,000 TV Stand,” the photo was shot by a Montreal-based McGill University chemical engineering student, who posed with an impressive stack of text chemistry textbooks — now being used to hold up his television monitor.
“Most of these books are from the last year of undergrad,” said the poster, who told Inverse his name was Faraz. “I was playing a video game and thought the screen was a bit low and could raise it with the books. At least putting the books to good used rather than sitting there collecting dust.”
If you’ve already passed through the annals of academia, you’ve likely experienced shock of seeing the cash total of your semester’s purchases at college book store. Text books and printed course material are expensive. And according to data, it’s only getting worse.
A study released in 2016 by the economic think tank the American Enterprise Institute illustrates the skyrocketing consumer price index of text books over the past 17 years. While the price of recreational books actually dropped slightly, text books continued to rise by 181 percent.
With some text books costing $200 a pop, a full course load can add up fast. According to the higher education non-profit the College Board, a full-time student embarking on an undergraduate degree at a public college will average around $1,298 in text book costs a year. That’s $5,192 for four years’ worth of books that you’ll probably never use again — unless you find yourself in need of a door stopper, or a higher TV stand like Faraz.
“It is frustrating because I know the longer I have them, the less likely I am to be able to sell them,” Faraz says, referencing how text books often lose their resale value as course materials change from year to year.
“What I make of the reaction online is that a lot of other people are in the same boat,” he says. “Things should change, but as of now, university or college is more of a business than anything else.”
There are still some ways to get around this costly burden. Depending on the course material, there are a lot of free text book options online, including the Open Textbook Library and OpenStax. A simple google search online will yield solid results.
It can also be worth it to make the most of your campus’s amenities. Most college libraries will have copies of text books — as well as scanners and photocopiers if you’re the stingy and industrious type. And of course whenever possible, used books are a good way to go.