The New College Bookstore Scam

by JT McGee

So I’m getting accustomed to my new class schedule (which partially explains my weird posting schedule lately), but I wanted to take a second to talk about this new scam in college text books: the loose leaf text book.

Way back in the day (like 3 years ago) every book you bought came with a backing. It was a book. You know, it actually had a cover and something keeping all the pages together. It was something incredible. Today, these are going the way of the dinosaur, not because of ebooks or online content, but because publishers found a new way to screw college students.

Here’s a look at one of my books from last semester:

(Yeah, yeah, I know…geology. I’m brilliant!)

It’s a book that requires you to BYOB – bring your own binder.

Why You Should Never Buy a Loose Leaf Book

Here’s a great reason to buy a loose leaf book: you don’t have to carry around the whole thing all the time. If you’re working with chapter 19, you just bring chapter 19, and maybe the glossary pages in the back. If you have three classes in one day with beastly 1,000 page books weighing 15 pounds each, you can see the advantage here.

But if you’re as strong as an ox or as cheap as a college student, you probably realize that all that convenience comes at a huge price. First, you have to buy a binder. There goes $5. That’s just the start though…

Bookstores won’t buy these back!

Publishers are smart people. They have found a way to charge too much for too little for centuries. This newest trick is brilliant: make it easy for people to lose pages and bookstores will be reluctant to buy back loose leaf books. No bookstore has the time (without a page counter or similar device) to see if all the pages of a loose leaf book are still there. So they refuse to buy them back.

Even on the secondary market, buyers are reluctant to buy a loose leaf book. I would be. You really don’t know if all the pages are there.

So that’s the newest textbook scam in a nutshell. Always buy books with a binding, and in the event you cannot, get any loose leaf books bound BEFORE you use them. A buyer on the secondary market will likely appreciate the fact that you make certain the pages are all there by binding the book like any other book.

The good news? I’ll be done with this nonsense in December.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

PK January 22, 2013 at 11:23

That’s not particularly new – well, maybe the ‘main’ book for the course part. The majority of my engineering labs had looseleaf/8.5″x11″ printouts which were, of course, non-refundable.

Don’t drop the course!


JT McGee January 22, 2013 at 16:51

Yeah, this is for the main book part of the course. It’s ridiculous.

Meh, I passed this course already. I was just reminded of this nonsense by people who were unable to sell their looseleaf books back to the bookstore.


Sean January 22, 2013 at 12:13

You’re a college student? I didn’t know that…


JT McGee January 22, 2013 at 16:50


Sorry to burst any bubbles.


Andrew @ Listen Money Matters January 25, 2013 at 21:05

Wow, I never expected that. I saw the title of the article and I was pretty sure you were going to talk about how you buy books brand new for $100 and can only sell them back in mint condition for like $40. Loose leaf is a pretty low blow. I did have one class that made me to to a printer on campus to have a book printed and bound but it was the professors own book so I guess that can work (although very self serving).


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