While many students tend to raise an eyebrow after looking at their receipts from U-Store, Print-It and Pequod purchases, the total prices for a number of classes offered this semester could send students into shock.
Students taking ENG 350: "Contemporary Poetry" may have had to use two shopping baskets to carry their required and optional books – 19 in all – from the shelves to the register. Even more surprising is the cost of these books together: a whopping $305.35, one of the most expensive undergraduate reading list this semester.
"These books are all in copyright, and I can't get them any cheaper," course professor James Richardson explained. "I got email from students about how expensive the books were, and I told them which books they should buy first."
Richardson said five or six of the books on the reading list are optional, yet purchasing only the required books would still leave the price tag of the reading list at a hefty $200.
"All the books are on reserve in the library," Richardson continued, "but I don't make people buy a book unless we're reading 20-30 (poems) out of it."
Nearing the $200 mark
A number of other classes surpass or approach the $200 dollar mark as well: HIS 396: "History of Biology," has a $217.24 price tag, COM 302: "Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature: Contemporary Critical Theory," has a 13-book reading list priced at $184.60 and EAS 223: "Ideas and Images in Chinese Culture," has an $81 set of Pequod packets and six books priced at $103.50.
History professor Frank Trentmann's class, HIS 369: "Great Britain and Ireland since 1776," includes a reading list of 9 required and optional books, totaling $115.30, and a Print-It packet costing $47.75. Though the price is high, Trentmann said he uses different techniques to keep costs down for his students.
"Cost is a big factor in my choice of books," Trentmann said. "I use primary sources from old editions so copyright laws do not go into effect to raise prices. For instance, I have political pamphlets from the 1790's that I use for my class, but no copyright law applies to them."
Trentmann said he tries to find the cheapest editions for the books he assigns, always uses paperbacks, and places copies on reserve, he said.
Comparative Literature professor Robert Fagles said he understands that the cost of his reading list for COM 326: "Tragedy" – fifteen books which cost $135.40 – is high but said it is essential because his class "covers a lot of ground."
"I realize the cost is high and I apologize to the students for the price, but we're reading whole plays," Fagles said. He added that Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel sends an email to every department to "try to be modest" with regard to prices of their books selections.
"It's something teachers and administrators want to keep an eye out for," he added.
English major Virginia Welford Taylor '98 said she thinks that professors do take note of the high prices of their reading lists by putting books on reserve.
"There are a lot of books to buy (as an English major), and I think that since I have spent time learning and studying them, I want to keep them," Taylor said. "I have also referred back to many of the books I have bought for my thesis."