Source // giphy
Law is one of those courses that’s built upon textbooks...endless textbooks. In my five years of uni thus far, I’ve always purchased all my prescribed textbooks, even for my Arts subjects. Naturally, as a law student, I feel like I need to buy textbooks, and as a nerdy McNerd, I WANT to buy these textbooks (guilty). Seeing people around me carrying textbooks under the “Additional recommended reading” heading doesn't help either. Then there's others who go through uni without ever purchasing a single textbook. Reading my uni yearbook, most of the answers to the question “what’s one thing you wish you knew?” was “don’t buy the textbooks".
Why would someone prescribe a textbook for the course if we didn’t actually need it? Wouldn’t it be much easier to compile a reader, much less pinpoint specific parts of the case we need to read? Right and wrong. Textbooks often contain extracts of cases with the most relevant parts of the judgment – reading this helps you to fully understand the reasons why the judges came to their decision and you could use this to draw analogies in problem questions. Textbooks also often contain discussion and analysis about the more contentious issues or principles in subjects – useful for research essays and problem questions.
To be honest, I’m still not quite sure how people manage to fully understand cases or principles without the textbook. You go through law school with your lecturers and tutors constantly referring to the textbook, pointing out the page you should read or additional notes. Then often than not, there’s that discreet thing that judge who was in dissent in that case said. I know relying on previous student’s notes and scaffolds is a thing but there’s nothing like reading something yourself and understanding the whole picture.
Yes they’re ridiculously expensive and yes, you never read the whole thing and probably not everything that you’re meant to read either. But there are cheaper alternatives. For example, you can find some secondhand textbooks in really great condition. There may be highlighted/underlined parts in them, but this is actually a blessing in disguise – the old owner of your textbook has probably highlighted/underlined what’s important, saving you the 30 page reading. If you’re not going to be keeping the textbook beyond the subject, it’s probably worth getting one secondhand. If you’re lucky, you might also be able to find the textbook online through your uni library as was the case with my ethics class.
So…should you buy your textbooks?
Yes. It may have been written by your lecturer, but as I was assured by my Federal Constitutional Law professor, if he made a fortune from students buying his textbook, he wouldn’t be lecturing Federal Constitutional Law.
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