Community Colleges offer a variety of classes in useful subjects for an extremely fair price to anyone in the community who wishes to learn. The quality of education is the same as a 4-Year college and it is a great help to the area. The only downfall of this is textbooks!
The part of the college experience that is (seemingly) a necessity at every level is a textbook. Inside this book is tons of information that you can find on the Internet for free, it's a good thing these books are very reasonably priced and usually ONLY cost between $100 and $200 each. In order to ensure maximum profits the textbook publishers make sure to release a new edition every year so that used booksellers can no longer sell the previous edition, therefore eliminating reselling. There is also the unspoken fact that the publishers often pay teachers to ensure that their books are used, this is all purely speculation of course.
Well all of this is known and it annoys/rips off anyone who has ever taken a college class. So while making ridiculous (how much money goes into a $200 16th edition of a Biology textbook?) profits on each new edition, the textbook guys realized that they weren't making enough money and thought that it's about time we make sure NO ONE is able to learn for free. The idea is students must buy an online access code to participate in the class, and if they do not purchase it then their grade is lowered. Makes you wonder why Gen Y believes that a degree is something you pay for and the means don't matter as long as the end result is that piece of paper, eh?
This is similar to the entire for-profit college experience where schools screw their athletes, screw their employees and most importantly screw the students. Societal norms however state that in order to become a success, a college degree is necessary and since these schools are "enlightening" the students, it is less likely they will ever be called out on their shit. To make sure that this post isn't just me bitching about the state of higher-education in America, I wanted to offer some good advice on how to get textbooks for nothing or next to nothing without resulting to piracy. Don't get me wrong, piracy of the textbook industry's product makes me very happy but rumor has it this archaic country still has stupid laws that must be followed.
So since we don't want to break any laws, here are some legal ways to fuck the textbook publishing industry and save yourself potentially hundreds of dollars:
1. Buy Older Editions
This is by far the most preferred of the suggestions, it has never failed me and most likely saved me at least $2000. As I mentioned before publishers are notorious for releasing updates every year with next to no changes, because apparently Accounting changes so much from year to year that this is a necessity. Well the trick is to buy a used book of a previous edition, which you can usually find on Amazon.com for next to nothing. An example I will use this Accounting Textbook that is the 14th edition and an extremely affordable $195.92 to purchase new (WHY THE FUCK DOES IT COST MORE THAN AN XBOX 360!?!?!). If you were to purchase the 13th edition of the same textbook on Amazon.com used it would cost $11.21! The changes between editions are so minimal that it is unnoticeable and the extra software they often bundle in is rarely, if ever used. Plus there is the satisfaction that the little money you do spend is going toward someone who was fucked by the publishers.
2. Use Your School Library
Almost all school libraries keep at least one copy of a textbook on hand from each class it offers, these are usually free for students to use for a certain period of time. It's fairly simple to copy any of the information and often the only information needed that can't be found online are questions for homework or assignments.
3. Pool Your Money With Friends
If you are lucky enough to have multiple friends in a class, it's simple to just throw your money together and purchase a textbook which can be passed around as needed. This isn't the most convenient but it beats wasting money on an unnecessary book.
4. Just Don't Buy A Book
The content of about 60% of the courses I had in college were entirely based on the teacher's notes and lectures, with the book being unused. Whatever you do, don't buy the book before the first class! Wait until a few weeks go by and see if you really need it, because oftentimes you don't. Effective Google search techniques found any information I ever needed.
Remember, our unethical Government is mostly on the side of "Big Education" and often will create or modify legislation to protect whatever shady business dealings the industry participates in. When can someone from the Pearson or McGraw-Hill give an honest answer as to why the fuck a book costs $100+ in 2012? The answer is never because there isn't one. The industry is taking advantage of students and most of these students have no idea there are legal methods to avoid them.
In case you have ever pirated a textbook in the past (something we would never recommend here) don't feel too bad because it only cost the publisher about $4 to print, bind and ship. Of course publishers will state that this doesn't include the $15,000 spent on creating the "Professional PowerPoint" included with the book, the untold fortune spent on bland clip-art licensing and the costs of sending free sample books to every professor in the free world, all of which are completely necessary in order to create a textbook of course.
When spending money to support this corrupt industry, remember that Pearson is not just the largest textbook publisher but also the largest publisher period with revenue of over $9 billion dollars in 2011. The amount of money they are making and wasting is staggering, and that money is coming directly out of your pocket when you buy one of their products.
It's important to note that "Big Education" is the true culprit behind all of this and the blame is actually more on their shoulders than anyone else. The Open Textbook concept is one that should be integrated and utilized by every reputable educational institution in the world, yet it is finding resistance from professors, school administration and of course from their out of touch and greedy competition themselves.
I guess academia's misguided and naive opinion of Wikipedia is emblematic of why something like open textbooks have not grown. Throughout college professors would lambaste and ridicule Wikipedia, repeatedly claiming that it is not reputable and "anyone can edit it!" so it must not be any good. Well EDUCATORS, tell me a better, cheaper and more thorough resource than Wikipedia that currently or ever has existed? Every single paper I completed in school was done so using Wikipedia as my main resource, of course citing it would have caused World War 3 but it's funny that I used the sources provided by Wikipedia as my sources and all of a sudden I have a finely researched paper.
Wikipedia and Open Source Education in general are a bit similar to Economics, in that aspects of human behavior create an unknown balance resulting in an efficient system. When an article is edited incorrectly, it is usually fixed quickly and when a fact is provided that is not cited, it is made clear to the reader. This along with leaving the ability to add information open creates a virtually unlimited knowledge base it is possible to tap into. Open Source Textbooks have been criticized for quality by many and this is a valid criticism, but it is one that will be remedied in the near future as the knowledge base grows. There is no way a new work can compete with a 13th edition that has been refined for anywhere from 10 to 40 years. If you explain all the points I stated above to the average University Professor or Dean they would be completely unable to understand the concept because they are clueless to the shift in economic value of data.
I find it funny that Joseph Henry Vogel who filed the patent mentioned earlier is an Economics professor in Puerto Rico with a Doctorate in the field. While browsing his website I noticed that he values the spreading of information and also the fair market value of the work in providing that information. Unfortunately, Mr. Vogel fails to realize that the market value of that information is quickly dwindling and the medium to convey it is now free. The fact that this blog posting by a rather anonymous 27 year old will probably get more views than much of his work is a great (and terrifying) illustration of this point.
It also appears that Mr. Vogel views piracy of textbooks as a crime that has so far been unpunished, which comes across to me as arrogant, self-righteous and once again, naive. Joseph Henry Vogel has authored or co-authored 4 works listed on Amazon.com, since these are geared toward academia the cost of a new copy range from average to ridiculous ($110 for Genes For Sale) and while the high prices may be to an institution or publishing company owning the rights to the work, it is still an example of the issue at hand. There is absolutely no reason educational materials should be this expensive for the public to access, none. With all due respect to Mr. Vogel, in 2012 your ideas are simply not worth anywhere near the actual cost.
I guess our biggest difference is that you come from an era where the perception of college is the noble and upstanding pursuit of knowledge, which at that time it was. This credibility and perception, the view of someone with an advanced degree has not changed and that is where the problem lies. I and others consider myself more well read and informed than many "experts" in various fields of interest. But because I chose to not waste money and teach myself, I lack that line on my resume that says I'm an expert. Which in 2012 is what a degree means, a line on a resume.