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Illegal textbooks — »If anyone has found an online version and it is being sent around, then this is always pretty cool.« Three students from UCPH talk about their textbook expenses.
Students spend an average DKK 2,400 a year on study programme-related books. This is according to a response from the Minister for Higher Education and Science from June 2021. There is considerable variation between study programmes though.
Almost half (48 per cent) of university students have acquired digital textbooks illegally. This is according to a survey by Epinion from June this year.
The University Post spoke to three students from different faculties about rules and book budgets.
»I usually spend around DKK 2,000 a semester. At least if I buy them from new. No actually, it has to be more than DKK 2,000, because I don’t buy new textbooks, and I pay at least DKK 2,000.«
Has it been a problem for you that the books have been updated when you have to buy used books?
»No actually not. I did try missing ten pages in a book that was not the most recent version. You can also keep an eye on how much new material has been added.
It is always a shock at the beginning of each semester that there has to be money for books as well.
Elise Sydendal, seventh semester student
In my course on European politics, I knew, for example, that there were some fairly large new chapters on Brexit. The book for the subject was written before Brexit, so I prioritised buying the new one.
But when it’s just the small updates, where they have just added ten pages and then tell us that we can no longer buy the used books — well, then I’ve just bought the used book anyway. I’ve always done fine with it. I can definitely recommend doing that.
It is always a shock at the beginning of each semester that there has to be money for books as well. I don’t make a special effort to afford the student books, but I have a job next to my studies. Otherwise, I would find it difficult to afford the textbooks. I haven’t asked my parents for financial assistance, but I’ve considered it several times, and I know a lot of people who have to go to their mum and dad.
I don’t think the Danish study grant is enough to survive on in Copenhagen if you also have to pay DKK 2,000 a semester on books. I can understand why many people try to get some help from their parents.«
Are you familiar with the rules on the digital sharing of textbooks?
»No. I know that someone from my class found a book online. I won’t mention any names if it really is so illegal. But if you can find it on the internet, then it can’t be completely illegal, but what do I know. If anyone has found an online version and it is sent around, then this is always pretty cool.«
UCPH students have got large fines for sharing digital textbooks. What do you think of that?
»I think that it has to be a bit difficult to find out what is illegal to share and what is not. I know that there are some of our books where the instructors say themselves that we should find them online. They say that we can buy them if we want, but that we can also find them online. So there must be some books where it is not illegal. It is about trying to find out what is legal and what is not.«
»We have a block structure on my study programme, so this means that I don’t have to buy books for one whole semester at a time. I have bought books for the first block in the autumn, where there is only one book on the syllabus. So that’s really cool. It was an e-book and it cost DKK 250.
How much we need to spend varies a lot over the course of a whole semester. And at the beginning of the programme, we had to spend a lot more money than we do now. I remember, in particular, a real monstrous tome called ‘Calculus’ or something like that. It cost almost DKK 1,000, but I have actually been quite happy with it. It is one of the few books I’ve bought on my study programme that I have appreciated. I have kept it.
In general, I am not very good at re-selling my study programme books when I have finished using them. It is also because many of them are e-books, where you only have them for a specific time period because the license expires. So it doesn’t really make sense. That’s also why I buy all my books from new, because it’s almost only e-books.«
Sometimes you don’t get much out of having the books, so you could just as well have not bought them.
Sture Oksholm, fifth semester student
Are you familiar with the rules for sharing e-books among students?
»My impression is that, as a rule, it is not allowed. This happened on a previous study programme. I don’t know how widespread it has been, but I’ve seen it happen.«
Are you doing anything in particular to be able to afford textbooks?
»No. It may be a bit silly. It is not something that I save up for. It’s just something I buy, and it’s a big item on the budget every time I have to do it.
Sometimes I have not bought a book because I could see on the syllabus that we don’t have to read a lot in it. Then I’ve just missed it. There are also some books I have bought that I have since regretted.
There was a statistics course where we had to buy a thick, half-expensive book, where we only had to read two chapters in it. That’s when I thought, OK, I’ll survive if I just don’t get it.
Sometimes you don’t get much out of having the books, so you could just as well have not bought them. This is, of course, not always the case, and it is difficult to know in advance.«
»I have a good DKK 2,000 in books here, the most expensive costing just under DKK 500. They all came out with new editions this year, and we were discouraged from buying used books, so they are all brand new. I would also like to have the best, so this is fine.
That you have to buy books: This is one of the costs of studying at university.
Oscar Klink Madsen, first semester student
I have not done anything in particular to be able to afford books. I work, and I knew that I was going to have put some money aside for books. I would actually like to be able to sell on my books when I have finished using them, but I can only do that if they have not been updated again in the meantime.
On the other hand, I would also like to use them as productively as possible, so that I can get the best out of my studies. I would also like to be able to write notes in them, and underline things.
That you have to buy books is one of the costs of studying at university. We also get the SU study grant, so it’s not entirely unreasonable.«
Are you familiar with the rules on the digital sharing of textbooks?
Yes, I read an article a couple of years ago about textbooks that were shared on a USB and stuff like that. I don’t think you are allowed to do this. It hasn’t really been an option for me this year, but it’s not something that I would do anyway.