Marble Pedestal: U of A Libraries’ course textbook initiative

Borrow expensive textbooks for free in order to save cash and stick it to publishing companies!

Every university student knows that textbooks are a scam. You buy them at the beginning of the year and end up not using half of them, or assume you don’t need them and end up waiting for an obscure title that’s back ordered at the bookstore. In the past, a thrifty student’s only options were to desperately message people via a chaotic Facebook group to try and get a used copy, or brave thousands of popups trying to find a sketchy PDF.

Thankfully, the brave librarians at the University of Alberta Libraries have blazed a new path with the course textbook initiative. Now, students can borrow unlimited textbooks for free from the library! While loans are limited to two hours at a time, that’s more than enough for most study sessions, assuming you put away your phone for once. If you check your book out less than two hours before the library closes, you can even keep it for an all-nighter until the library opens the next day.

Suddenly, you don’t need to spend your cash on that textbook you only realistically need for two weeks. If the library doesn’t have the book you need, they’ll probably buy it for you if you ask! Now you can blow your savings at Cookies by George instead, or whatever it is that responsible people do. Even if you rack up some overdue fines, you’re still saving money versus buying the book yourself. Regardless, I’d rather my hard-earned dollars go back into the libraries than to a greedy textbook publisher.

Libraries were the “sharing economy” before Uber and Airbnb made it cool, saving you money without taking away any of your privacy or rights! I reckon borrowing textbooks from the library has saved me at least $500 over the course of my degree, $200 alone for a particularly expensive sociology book. Truly a win for everyone involved, except the textbook publishing racket, on which I wish a swift demise.

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