Are Textbooks Cooler than N64?

29 Nov

Picture this: Christmas morning, snowflakes fluttering down from the window’s view on a perfect winter’s day. Parents wait downstairs, video-camera in hand, as the children are finally allowed to mad dash towards the tree. It’s a brilliant scene:  gorgeously wrapped presents stacked underneath the beautiful evergreen tree, boasting unknown treasures within. Eyes wide, little Johnie boy reaches with one wishful fist for his first present, and it’s a big one. Suspense peaks as he tenaciously rips paper from package. Then it happens; for a split second, the world comes to a standstill. Eyes now bulging, little Johnie lets out a roar: “Taxation of Business Entities Seventh Edition!!!!! OH MY GOSH!!!” Little sister Susie pumps her fist victoriously as they both belt out praises to the powers that be. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you Santa!!” It must have been Santa, mom and dad would never cough up the $288.88 cost on a single item. Fortunately, the fat man came up big this year. Best. Day. Ever.

…Wait a minute, no, something isn’t right. This scene is suppose to paint the picture of an almighty Nintendo 64 being gloriously introduced into Johnie’s world. Well, fast forward a few years and that same little boy is now shipping off to college.

What’s awaiting him? Fun times, lessons learned, and money LOST.

The original list price for a Nintendo 64 was $250.00, $38.88 less than his soon to be purchased Accounting textbook. At this point you’re probably sharing my sentiment: “the book costs more than Nintendo 64?! Wow, that product must be insanely mind-blowing”.

Now let’s review the logic at hand. Clearly the high price tag for Nintendo 64 was warranted by its sheer awesomeness and driven by an overflowing demand –demonstrated by overnight lines which morphed into retail store parking lot campouts. So there must be a similar demand for the accounting book, right? Strange because on a quick glance, there’s no long lines outside the bookstore.  Awesomeness of the product? Ehh, no comment. Wait wait wait, here’s the issue. FIVE YEARS after little Johnie’s Christmas morning ecstasy, the next-gen consoles (PS2 /Xbox/GameCube) were released, essentially rendering N64 obsolete (as if!). With that in mind, “Longevity” must be the additional value boasted by Taxation of Business Entities Seventh Edition. Wait, nope, the ultra-hyped eighth edition comes out next year, bumping this one along to join its peers in the infinite graveyard of dead trees. So why on earth are these cunning college kids spending the equivalent of Nintendo 64 funds on one measly textbook?  We asked around campus and generally received one answer: “My teacher told me to buy it”.

So I decided to ask the unfathomable follow-up question: “What if the teacher hadn’t?  What would you do with the (low end) $500/semester if it weren’t squandered in textbook expenses?” The results were notably mind-blowing. I’ve narrowed down our top three.

The first solution was a fairly common notion: “Save for spring break!” Apparently the ultimate dream for many college students is the ability to afford a fully-loaded spring break vacation. Seriously? College kids would rather preserve the opportunity to hang beach-side with their pals than haul around a backpack full of books? Sounds like a peculiar sentiment, but it’s not my job to judge.

This second guy appeared to have grown up with the same hopes and dreams as little Nintendo Johnie. “Xbox games for days” was his immediate reaction. Ok buddy, go ahead and play your Xbox games (for days). When I inquired as to what extent he would prefer to utilize these purchased video games, he gave me a sort of funny look. “Until I beat them, obviously”. As if it would be illogical to receive less than full value on a conscience purchase. Hmm, college kids these days can be so demanding.

And then there was the last girl, an unexpectedly selfish little damsel. This little miss thing had the nerve to claim that $30 per week in savings would cover her grocery expenses. College kids sure do say the darndest things. As if it were important to budget in food expenses for daily living. Boasting an ever-inquisitive mind, I asked her how frequently she would actually be eating said “food”. Her response: “every day”. Ok, fine, I was clearly dealing with an addict and decided to rest the case.

Ridiculous as their demands may be, college students have spoken and it appears there may be other things available to purchase with that textbook money. As members of this generation of students, swamped in over $1 trillion national student debt (more than the national credit card debt – that’s a LOT of N64s!) and faced with a textbook market characterized by prices rising at a rate of four times inflation the past fifteen years, we understand entirely. So allow me to introduce us: we’re Packback, students building the business we need to better this troubled industry and enhance affordability in education.

http://www.facebook.com/packbackbooks

@packbackbooks on Twitter

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