As a student, you are strongly aware of the high costs of textbooks. Moreover, you might have noticed that every time you purchase a textbook, you receive a pitch from the publisher to upgrade for some extra add-ons without which, according to the publisher, you will struggle to understand the course and excel in your studies. This has become a trend for the tech industry either: when you buy new software, you receive advice immediately on what you can purchase next. It can be a tech-support subscription (because we live at the era of services), a wider variety of content, customized- templates, etc. Nowadays there are always ways to make us, general customers, pay more and have extra fees… In the publishing industry, this has turned out into a profitable business model when students buying textbooks need to have the code for practicing additional tests associated with these books. Therefore, it puts extra worries on students if they are trying to save money by purchasing second-hand textbooks. Below we will try to demystify certain beliefs about these access codes for students.
What are Access Codes for Textbooks
Academic publishing is a successful high-margin business and textbook producers understand very well these days how to create high demand for their products. When you are deciding on buying a new smartphone model, you do a lot of research and price comparison. You need to undertake a similar smart shopper approach when buying textbooks! It used to be a simple choice in the past when you could buy new expensive textbooks or cheaper second-hand versions. Today you should take into account that you can also rent books, try out eBooks, maybe you can get by sharing textbooks with your course mates, or maybe you can survive without the actual textbook. Deciding on whether or not you need this ubiquitous access code will be the key factor to determine your ownership status for textbooks.
So do you really need the access codes for textbooks? In case you do, does it mean that you must buy a brand-new book to guarantee that this code is valid and you can use the material beyond the textbook course? A simple answer to this is that you will need the access codes on a case-by-case basis. You need to evaluate the requirements of your particular course (syllabus, your professor) in order to decide on this. At the same time, there are general rules that will help you decide whether you should get a book with a brand-new active access code or you can consider other options.
Do you Really Need Textbook Access Codes?
To form your opinion about your access code needs, you should do the following:
- Check your syllabus carefully. If there is no indication of supplemental materials or online components (quizzes, problem sets) then it might mean that you should not worry about the access code! It indicates that you can consider buying a much cheaper version of the original textbook. Please note: if it says that you have to complete graded assignments online, then you will need a unique access code in this case.
- Talk to your professor! Check one more time to confirm that there is no need for supplemental stuff or online access to exercises, readings and tests. If the answer is no, then you definitely know that there is no need to worry about the access code!
If you Really Do Need an Access Code
If after having analysed your course requirements and having talked to your professor you found out that you need an access code, then what should you do? Is it your only option now to pay a lot of money for a new textbook? The answer is maybe yes, maybe not.
Sometime ago buying a new textbook with all the supplemental material included (called a bundle) was the only solution in this case. This package included the additional material that could only be used once. The publishers were really happy about this new idea because it significantly reduced their losses to used textbook market. Subsequently this trend caused a lot of scams involving the websites that promised students free access codes for their textbooks (free or with serious discounts). These downloads turned out to be useless : they could contain malware or required private data from which scammers could benefit (credit card number, for example). Therefore, make sure you avoid any YouTube or eBay offers for cheap access codes!
Today this situation evened out. Students stopped buying new textbooks with expensive access codes, i.e. they voted with their own wallets so that publishers had to realize that a lot of students will not be able to afford such expensive prices. Money talks! In the end, they came up with the most logical decision which we recommend to you in case you really need access code materials. Now you can legally download the access code and the supplemental material associated with it directly from the publisher! This is much cheaper than buying the package with the new textbook. Therefore, you can find a reasonable compromise by buying a used textbook or renting it and by downloading the access code in case you really need it for your studies.