From Swarthmore, on textbooks.

Timothy Burke comments rather nicely on why textbooks are so expensive:

Textbooks are way less defensible in these terms because they’re a much more direct relationship between teaching faculty, their colleagues who publish textbooks in a given field, and the publishers. But much as in the case of health care, a student generally doesn’t have any choice, and that’s more or less the root reason why a single textbook can cost over $150.00: because the publisher can charge that and expect that a captive market will have to pay. [Emphasis mine]

Cue this face:

So is it all just for profit? Because if that’s the case, well, I’m just screwed, aren’t I? Luckily, as an English major, I’ve never really used a bonafide textbook, save for the ones I was forced to get during my freshman year of college for general ed courses. Burke and I both don’t use “conventional textbooks” – those fat hunks of paper printed by McGraw-Hill or Prentice Hall. Luckily, I’ve been mostly assigned to purchase anthologies and novels, books I will probably keep for the rest of my life.

I try to combat the prices at my campus bookstore with Amazon. I usually save about $40, at least, when I shop around online. The bookstore is convenient, yes, but they’re like bloody vampires – and they don’t care how much they take from you! I once tried to return textbooks during buyback and was offered $0.25 for a book. Other times I was lucky enough to be offered nothing for a book I bought, which had cost me at least $30. The cashiers behind their registers simply shrug their shoulders and smile and say, “Sorry. But would you like a receipt?”

I agree with  Burke’s notion of using Wiki-textbooks, but classes would have to be extremely “linked” to the Web. I know in this Age of the Internet, it’s probably improbable for a 20-something to not have access to the intertubes at least 24 hours a day. But if we would use eTextbooks, would we have to bring them to class every day? Could we just print out specific sections? It would certainly be more efficient to use an electronic medium as a textbook, since I can tell you for a fact that never, in my entire educational career, have I used an entire textbook. We could just “click and choose” whatever we wanted to read.

I just hope we could use recycled paper.


1 Comment

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One response to “From Swarthmore, on textbooks.

  1. lastpersonleft

    Generally speaking, the textbook industry is a scam. The publishers make a fair amount of money but as is the case with health care texbooks, publisher do not make as much as one may think. Sure there is a captive audience but the market is pretty small. In addition, publishers not only pay the authors but it is accepted practice to pay multiple reviewers.
    The real outrage is in the astronomical mark-ups imposed by the colleges. I recall that while I was teaching at MDC, I was not allowed to encourage students to buy their texts on the internet. The buy-back and resale policies are unfair to students. Maybe one day students will organize and say no to this rip-off. And then go after the infamous “student fees”.

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