STUDENTS intending to buy second-hand books in order to save money might be in for a disappointment this year as many of these books are unsuitable because of the frequent changes in editions and syllabuses.
A number of voluntary organisations, which have helped to organise the sales of such books in past years, are being forced to give up the service this year to avoid the trouble of scrutinising books for the correct edition.
The YWCA Cheung Ching Social Service Centre, which has been working as a ''middleman'' in the past six years, has received poor response this year.
Its two-week campaign involves the buying of used books in the first week and selling them in the second. The staff then has the responsibility of checking the editions and contents before selecting the suitable ones.
Prices of books, set by the students themselves, should at least be half the market price. Books sold have a 10 per cent service charge deducted by the centre.
The officer-in-charge of the centre, Ms Teresa Ng Yau-chun, said less than 30 per cent of books collected was successfully sold.
''We have collected 2,200 used secondary textbooks and reference books on a variety of subjects and levels, but only 600 were sold. The response has been quite disappointing.
''It's not that the books were not popular but that many, though in good condition and of recent edition, were outdated because of the frequent changes in edition and syllabus,'' she said, adding that the problem was a common experience in other centres as well.
Ms Ng emphasised that their volunteers had to do a thorough check and only those published in the past two to three years were put on sale. But to her surprise, ''some 1992 editions can no longer be used as 1993 editions have just been published''.
Many science subjects in the senior forms such as Physics and Chemistry have had their contents and editions changed, she said.
''How can the publishers issue a new edition in such a short period? That means students are forced to give up the idea of buying second-hand books, and paying more for new ones every year.
''This has disappointed many students, especially those who have older brothers and sisters who have taken the same subjects,'' she said.
Ms Wendy Wu Kit-ying, co-ordinator for the Salvation Army's group and community services, said the organisation used to sell second-hand books but had to drop the idea this year.
''Such a programme requires a lot of manpower and effort. We need to recruit enough helpers to check the books. And sometimes the response is not encouraging because the books become outdated,'' she said.
The bad news will increase the family burden as a full set of Form 1 textbooks for 12 subjects, excluding notebooks and exercise books, for the 1993-94 school year should cost about $1,700.
Oxford University Press