• Angelique

Things I Hate about Textbooks


Textbooks. They’re the foundation of our seminars, lectures and tutorials. We tab them compulsively, highlight them to oblivion (unless you’re one of those people who daren’t deface a book), lug them around campus and wheel them into exam halls.

Whether you buy your texts brand new and lovingly contact them and write your name in the corner (so you can assert your title superior to all others - in case someone else ‘finds’ it), or whether you scrounge around noticeboards, alumni bookshops or Facebook bulletins for ultra-cheap, rainbow-of-highlighter texts for a fraction of the price – textbooks dominate our student life.

But textbooks can be inaccessible. They can refer to ridiculously obscure cases, use incomprehensible language and essentially melt our brains.

Here are a few things that drive my law student mind mad...

1. ‘This is no longer the position in Australia’

This would be an ideal sentence at the beginning of a chapter so that the reader is aware that the following paragraphs are completely irrelevant. There is nothing worse than making it through hundreds of pages, highlighting essential points in each paragraph, making notes as you go, only to find everything you just read was irrelevant when you reach:

* This is no longer the position in Australia.

Understandable when there is a particularly murky area of the law, or where judges reach into other jurisdictions in order to seek clarification.

But from the eyes of a desperate law student however, when trying to absorb each essential source of information, that sentence, or likewise sentences, is often the source of much anguish and despair. What it really means is:

Everything you just read is irrelevant, go to the next 20 pages to find what you really need to know.

2. Obscenely Tiny Fonts and Too Many Subparagraphs

To point out the obvious, textbooks have paragraphs. Lots of them. So when you’re trying to wade yourself through hundreds of pages of readings, there is nothing worse than:

4.6. paragraph

4.7. paragraph

4.8. paragraph

4.8.1. sub paragraph

4.8.1.1. sub subparagraph

4.8.1.2. sub sub subparagraph in italics in ridiculously tiny writing.

4.8.1.3. Perhaps a journal article that didn’t really need to be there (Who wants to read about the history of the word ‘mortgage’?). Also the text is too small for you to highlight on just one line and you’ve now highlighted the wrong sentence. RAGE!

4.8.2. Paragraph

4.9. paragraph (you’ve just read seven paragraphs, and somehow, according to the paragraph reference, you haven’t made much progress).

3. Internal references

The structure of a textbook will often be the difference between coherent notes, and a pile of pages with illegible case law and too many textbook page references.

So when a single paragraph sends you from the front of the book, to the back of the book, or to paragraph 108.45 in chapter 108, where the chapter is over 300 paragraphs long, you can be forgiven for trying to re-read a page a hundred times.

"The general position on [x] legislation is [y]. However there are rare examples of [z]. See Chapter 2, (50 pages from the front of the book) at [2.04] See also s89. (with no reference to the legislation title, because of course, they mentioned it at the beginning of the chapter and you’re now a hundred pages in).

"The defendant may also rely on [other obscure legislation]. See Chapter 24 (583 pages from the page you’re currently reading. May or may not refer to the jurisdiction that you’re in, but you won’t find that out until you search for the reference. May or may not refer you to entire chapter to find that one reference).

"However, the position no longer applies in Australia." See above rant.

4. Impossibly Thin Pages

When textbooks are the size of phone books, publishers tend to compensate with uber-thin pages. Although obviously a necessary evil, when industrial strength highlighters are used on texts of this variety, the bleeding onto the other side of the page may lead to study rage in particularly meticulous students.

The highlighter bleed onto other pages tends to be exacerbated (and so too does the rage) when you’ve accidentally highlighted the wrong colour.

Textbooks of this variety also tend to be extraordinarily fragile, as you’ll discover when trying to read a text in a comfortable position, sudden movements to the bathroom or fridge may result in a tear… and tears.

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#procrastination #textbooks