Post Academic

A special kind of hoarded book: The (unused) textbook

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on April 6, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Writing about book hoarding reminded me of this link from the Washington Post‘s newish “College Inc.” blog (it’s RSS’d in the right column) about textbooks.  Here’s the payoff quote from the short piece, about how in/frequently college students use their very expensive textbooks:

…one-third of students reported using their textbook “a lot,” 28 percent “a good amount,” 25 percent “a little” and 14 percent not at all. (A few said the question wasn’t applicable to their course, presumably for lack of a textbook.)

As a college instructor, I’m actually surprised that *only* 14 percent of textbooks are not used at all and 25 percent just a little.  Heck, I’m an academic, and that’s probably in line with how often I cracked open some of my assigned reading.  The last line from the piece sums up nicely what becomes of textbooks as you load ’em up into one moving box after the next, from one move to the next: “But hey: even a shelf full of unread textbooks can impress.”

Indeed, the textbook really is its own category of hoarded book, at once almost completely useless after the class it was assigned for is over, but also completely useful as a “MacGyvered” object.  Happily, textbooks generally have a lot of resale value and it’s not hard to sell them back to the campus bookstore, so they aren’t so easy to hoard.  But those that you can’t sell back or, for whatever reason, end up collecting dust on your shelves don’t have to completely go to waste.   I’ve found that old, beaten-up Latin textbooks from middle school (yes, I have those) or the Riverside Complete Chaucer can come in handy as heavy-duty door stops or as little stepstools or can be used to flatten out rolled up posters and papers.  Maybe they can even come to symbolize a post-academic life, as repurposed objects that have somehow become useful long after their initial reason-for-being had passed them by.

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