For students, keeping tabs on where your cell phone is or locking up your laptop with a handy desk lock is common practice in the library. But what about your textbooks? Textbook theft is a rising concern for students across the nation. It may seem odd, but when you consider that textbook prices continue to rise (and so do sites paying money for those books), textbooks themselves are becoming high-risk items. Like the common practice of stealing and reselling bikes, stealing textbooks and selling them back to the bookstore or online retailer can turn a quick buck, and with some textbooks valued at hundreds of dollars, it is an appealing offer.
Take, for example, University of Virginia student Stephen Lambert, who in 2010 was charged with grand larceny for stealing nearly $20,000 worth of texts from the campus bookstore and reselling them on Half.com. Not to be out done, this year in Tennessee a student was arrested and now faces a class B or C felony charge for stealing approximately $60,000 worth of books and attempting to sell them to local pawn shops.
At the University of Indianapolis, campus security noticed books were repeatedly being stolen from one wing of the campus library. Officers set up a sting operation and managed to catch the thief in the act. Turns out that the thief would frequently stake out the library waiting for students to leave their things unattended and then swipe their books. Probably the most surprising thing is that the thief appeared to be selectively stealing high value texts, leaving cheaper books alone—he knew his stuff.
Luckily there are precautions you can take. The most obvious is to never leave your books, or any of your belongings for that matter, unattended. Go to the library with a friend so you can watch each other’s belongings. Bring a big tote or backpack that is easy to toss your textbook in, even for a quick coffee run. Even if you think your book will be safe for a few minutes, consider the stories above and take that extra step of caution
Marking your textbook is also a great measure you can take. Writing your name and school year on the inside cover is a start, but thieves will typically black that out with pen, so thinking a few steps ahead is key. You can use invisible ink to write your information down or write a code on a specific page number in all your books; this way, if the book is recovered you can prove that it is yours. You should also make a list of every text you buy with any identifying numbers or marks.
However, all of these preventative measures will only work if you are quick to report the theft. Most stolen books are sold back to the campus bookstore, so reporting quickly will help the book store identify suspicious books when they are being resold. Ultimately though, your books are your responsibility, so doing everything you can to protect your investment is important. Like I mentioned last week, buyback season is right around the corner, and your books are worth something! But remember: losing your book, to theft or absentmindedness, costs you not just dollars but added stress and lost resources, especially as you head into finals.
Do have any textbook theft horror stories? How about simple strategies you used to keep track of your own books? Let me know in the comments!