Skip to comments.That Book Costs How Much?
Posted on 04/26/2008 8:36:08 AM PDT by iowamark
College students and their families are rightly outraged about the bankrupting costs of textbooks that have nearly tripled since the 1980s, mainly because of marginally useful CD-ROMs and other supplements. A bill pending in Congress would require publishers to sell unbundled versions of the books minus the pricey add-ons. Even more important, it would require publishers to reveal book prices in marketing material so that professors could choose less-expensive titles.
The bill is a good first step. But colleges and universities will need to embrace new methods of textbook development and distribution if they want to rein in runaway costs. That means using digital textbooks, which can often be presented online free of charge or in hard copies for as little as one-fifth the cost of traditional books. The digital books can also be easily customized and updated.
Right now, textbook publishers are calling the tune....
But there is no reason for an introductory textbook to carry a price tag of, say, $140, in an area like economics where the information changes little from year to year.
... A new company called Flat World Knowledge, based in Nyack, N.Y., plans to offer online textbooks free and hopes to make its profit by selling supplemental materials like study guides and hard copies printed on demand. A study being carried out by the geographer Ronald Dorn at Arizona State University suggests that students who use free online textbooks perform as well academically as students who buy expensive copies from traditional publishers. Colleges and universities should take advantage of these new developments. Cash-strapped students and their families need all the relief they can get.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
ridiculously overpriced text books.
Not a bigger than scam than Social Security. Congress should worry about *their* scams before worrying about others.
Congress needs to tie this mandate in with the grants these colleges apply for. It CAN be that easy.
but I suppose the publishers have to recoup the losses on books like Cindy Sheehans that only sold 2 copies.
Prices haven't tripled because they included a 25 cent CD. Prices tripled because you are a captive market.
LOL! The books are often written by the professors who change the books every couple years to foil used book sales. The NYTimes and the U.S. Congress are clueless.
Amen to that.
bookmark for later
Having actually collaborated on a textbook, (technical material, not that soft liberal arts crap) I can understand much of the cost of the final product. The amount of research and fact checking, technical expertise and sheer time involved in getting it out the door is tremendous. Compared to mass market books, textbooks are small potatoes in terms of sales, and the publishers have to be able to make it worthwhile for the SME to be involved.
Having said that, I noticed that the same book that retailed for $98 in the college bookstores could be had for $59 through Amazon or B&N online. That doesn’t help pay the royalties, but it does get the book to the students a little more cheaply.
That’s the kicker. You can’t even sell them back or sell them on ebay because they make minor changes and change the “edition” every couple years. A lot of these books are in their 8th or 9th edition, with little changed.
Occasionally, my kid has had a prof who said, get any edition of the book, so then the students can go on ebay and buy a really cheap previous edition.
As a former college teacher I can comfortably say that textbooks are ONE of the biggest rip-offs in higher education.
Furthermore, few students actually open them.
A lot of professors pad their salaries by writing a “book”, which is their lesson plan, getting it published, then requiring the students to use it. The book that would cost $5-10 at the copy shop now costs $110, with the professor making a nice profit.
No BS, actually seen it at the local universities.
San Diego State had rules in the 1980’s requiring no profit could be made if the book was required for the class and by written by the professor. Many books written by the professors had paper back version printed at the university for about one fourth the price of other books.
A big part of the price could be reduced by publishing the entire book on a DVD disc.
Yep. And the publishers have a deal with the colleges to print a new book every year or every other year obsoleting the previous years text book when the only thing that has changed is maybe the order of the illustrations.
I’ve got two history of art books from three years that are identical in text, only thing that changed was the location of the pictures in the text.
Want lower prices? Simply reduce the subsidy provided by the government. Nothing ever costs less than the amount it is subsidized for. This will allow the market to provide the book, that offers the best bang for the buck.
e-books like Amazon.com
Besides paying tuition, the best feature of my ROTC scholarship was it paid for books. Plus, I had a job after I graduated.
The primary reason textbooks are expensive is not "marginally useful CD-ROMs and other supplements," but simply that students will pay these prices. Why will students pay them? Because they are critical to succeeding in so many classes. Why are they critical to succeeding in so many classes? Because professors build their classes around textbooks. Why do professors build their classes around textbooks? Because publishers make life easy for them by writing canned exams, study guides, web supplements to (even replacements of) traditional lectures, etc. Professors, in turn, have little incentive to care what their students pay, and so publishers can get away with all of this. Publishers also use the new-edition tactic to gut the used-textbook market, which would otherwise eat a lot into sales.
I teach 5 classes on a regular basis. In one I use no text at all, in two others I use standard textbooks but make them optional, and in the other two I have mandatory books, but books which are not traditional textbooks but mass-market books by Thomas Sowell that are a lot cheaper but do not have "problem sets," web supplements, etc. But that requires that I create and grade my own tests, not lean on the publishers' add-ons as busywork for students, and otherwise actually aggressively teach my classes. It is old-fashioned, but students appreciate it. There is some justification for the traditional textbook model in some science and language classes, where repetitive problem-solving and/or drills are important, but the fault otherwise lies with professors who don't want to do the work of teaching.