Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The (exhorbitant) cost of textbooks

To those teaching and requiring your students to use a textbook: do you know what that textbook costs? Many do not, and thus tell students to buy a book without proper information. This is much like in the health industry, where physicians prescribe drugs without knowing their cost. No wonder publishers exploit students like pharmaceutical exploit their captive clientele.

Ted Bergstrom, who is already a driving force in reducing the cost of journals, now has teamed up with Maxim Massenkoff and Martin Osborne and created an informative website, PoET, that gives the information that publishers are reluctant to give faculty: the price of their textbooks. One can also leave a review of a textbook, and thus make the adoption of a textbook a more informed matter.

To be honest, I would prefer teaching without a textbook. But students nowadays require one and complain when I stray away from it. I tell them to buy the one that is the closest to what I teach. And I do not care which edition it is. Now I will also put the price in my optimization.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

$150+ for an intermediate textbook? That is ridiculous! How come graduate textbooks cost only a third of that with much smaller printings?

Vilfredo said...

The students are the ones asking for textbooks, they are not victims. I would prefer teaching without a textbook, but they insist on it. That it is expensive is then not my problem.

Anonymous said...

Most importantly, professors should not assign new editions. There is hardly any difference between editions. New editions just kill the used book market.

Biomed Tim said...

Sometimes professors have no control over which edition to assign; campus bookstores are "required" to buy the newest editions from the publishers.

When you allow different students to use different editions, assigning homework problems can be difficult. Chapters are also rearranged occasionally.

Anonymous said...

Why did we have a GAO study when nobody is taking it's conclusion into account? Students are subsidizing the high cost of the free materials that professors want from the publishers. Stop allowing the publishers to give so much crap away and the textbook prices will come down.

Anonymous said...

True, publishers do give quite a bit away to professors for free. But most professors would not adopt a text(s), if they had to pay for it to review it for their course. When it comes to new editions, it is not the bookstore that is "REQUIRED" to bring in the latest edition. However, if a professor wants a certain text for their students, the bookstore may have "No Choice" but to inform the professor of the latest edition to ensure that every student will be on the same page.

USED textbook supplies are limited. Ways to reduce the cost to students: 1)have the faculty agree to use the same textbook(s) for all sections of the course offered, 2) have them agree to a two year span for the textbook, 3) have publishers create only paperback editions of the text(s) not hardcovers, 4)encourge early adoptions so the bookstore will be able to source USED and hard to find titles for the students to purchase, 5) create course readers/custom book(s) for the courese (as most students will find, they do not use all the text(s) they are required to purchase for a course - why not create a the custom solution of the sections professors will be using in just one publication)

Economic Logician said...

The free material that professors get is only small potatoes in a publisher's budget. The marginal cost of printing one extra copy is negligible. What really costs is the staff that visits campuses and tries to push these books. Like professors would not know what textbook is on the market already... I get weekly visits from some publisher. Really annoying.