Books may be emblematic of student life, but more recently they’ve also come to represent student poverty.

UCSB students exchange piles of money for piles of books every quarter. Unfortunately, one quarter’s worth of books can commonly run up a price tag of $200 or $300. Furthermore, UCSB runs on a quarter system, meaning students have to open their wallets three or four times a year just to get properly educated.

Expensive textbooks, however, are a headache the University and its professors could prevent.

The Greenlining Institute, a San Francisco-based student welfare group, claims purchasing books from overseas could save students hundreds of dollars each quarter. Excluding UC Berkeley, the UCs follow a quarter system that prevents most students from ordering these cheaper books through in a timely manner, so whether anything will come from the Greenlining Institute’s claim is uncertain.

However, the notion of saving students cash is a good one to consider, and the Greenlining Institute’s idea is only one of a number of avenues warranting exploration.

What might aid students even more is a movement by the University of California toward cheaper textbooks. If UC negotiated with textbook publishers as a unified bloc representing nine high-ranking public universities, textbook publishers might be forced to take notice.

For instance, a UC-wide refusal to pay for high-color illustrations in needlessly updated history or introductory physics books could make a serious difference both when students buy the books and again when they sell them back. Or UC could expand the University of California Press, printing – and revising – books while being sympathetic with students’ financial plight. These changes would be long-term ones, but they’re also ones students would surely appreciate.

Meanwhile, Santa Barbara’s chunk of the UC machine could encourage its professors to work with the UCSB Bookstore and require students to purchase only the new editions that merit the extra bucks. Certain benevolent professors already help students by piecing together readers containing the necessary literature or correctly regarding supplemental CD-ROMs inserted in textbooks as wastes of money. Allowing alternate editions in class or reminding students about cheap books on websites like or would help just as much.

The sky-high textbook tab is one story that deserves an ending. Here’s to writing a new book – at an affordable price.