With three daughters close in age, Margaret O’Sullivan thought she would be able to pass costly schoolbooks down the line – instead she is forking out hundreds of euro a year on new books.
This is because minor additions or changes in pagination have rendered perfectly good books “useless”, she said.
Ms O’Sullivan, from Dublin, said an “ever-increasing greed” from schoolbook publishers means her daughters – aged 12, 15 and 17 – have been unable to pass their books on to their sisters.
“It started in primary school when, at the end of the summer term, I would put the books aside for the following year when they would be needed by another of my girls,” she said.
“But then we began getting messages from the school saying that they were using a new Irish book for the next year or the history or geography book had a new addition.
“I asked the teacher if I could just use the old ones, but as the page numbering had changed, it meant that the girls would never be able to keep up in class as they would have to be searching through for the right section.
“It was totally infuriating as I was having to buy completely new books when 99.9pc of the versions we had were exactly the same.
“Also, on more than one occasion, they decided to use a new book for Irish or English, so we would buy the new version and give away the previous one, only to be told a year or two later that they had decided to go back to using the one we had originally. It made no sense and just ended up costing us more money.”
Ms O’Sullivan said this practice has continued throughout her children’s school life and now that two of them are in secondary school, the cost is even higher and they have often had difficulty finding the money.
“It was hard when they were younger, but since they went into secondary school, the books cost twice the price, so it has been hard for us to find the extra cash,” she said.
“I don’t know who makes these decisions – the school or the publishing companies – but whoever it is, it’s completely ridiculous and as far as I’m concerned, just done out of greed.
“And to make matters worse, the local school supply shop used to buy second-hand books, albeit for a very small price and sell on to someone else for double or triple the price, but now they don’t even do that anymore, so we are left every year with books that are useless to anyone. It’s scandalous.”
Kerry mother Niamh O’Kennedy has two sons, aged eight and 10, but is in the fortunate position of their school offering a book rental scheme.
“When I was growing up, we would sell schoolbooks to the bookshop and they would resell them, but I’ve heard people say that they can’t do this any more because books and pages have changed so they can’t be used – that’s just appalling,” she said.
“We are very lucky that there is a system in our school where we pay €100 (and up to €150 for older children) for books for the year – that also includes copies, workbooks and photocopying.
“Of course, the books are second-hand, apart from the workbooks which are brand new, and I can see that they have been used before, but they are all in good condition and we give them back at the end of the year. It’s a perfect system.
“I think it’s scandalous that parents have to get rid of books after one child has finished using them.
“I have friends in Limerick who pay around €200 for their children’s books and then when they get into secondary school it is double that. Then they can’t pass them on afterwards and the books are just written off.
“The system we have in our school is the way forward, I think. It makes economic sense and it’s sustainable. If books have any updates or if there is a change to the curriculum, our teachers will put in some photocopied sheets with the extra text – it just takes a bit of common sense.
“Putting books in the recycling bin, or worse, just because of a few changes is absolutely shocking and is not acceptable in this day and age.”