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.
Two words: Designed obsolescence.
"Feedom of the press" is a tough concept for the New York Times editorial board?
I mean, I know they're dumber than a box of rocks, but still...
The consumer is being “gouged” by “big education”! I am waiting for this story to show up in the MSM - along with wind-fall profits tax proposals to solve the problem.
NY Times Textbook Publishing, Inc.
The New York Times thinks textbook prices are “outrageous” and calls for reform, including Congressional legislation to regulate various industry practices.
To me, this reaction seems strange. After all, the Times is a for-profit company in the business of providing information. If it really thought that some type of information (that is, textbooks) was vastly overpriced, wouldn't the Times view this as a great business opportunity? Instead of merely editorializing, why not enter the market and offer a better product at a lower price? The Times knows how to hire writers, editors, printers, etc. There are no barriers to entry in the textbook market, and the Times starts with a pretty good brand name.
My guess is that the Times business managers would not view starting a new textbook publisher as an exceptionally profitable business opportunity, which if true only goes to undermine the premise of its editorial writers.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Our son is in grad school, and it seems that since he’s been in classes at that level, fewer profs require a “standard” textbook, and more either use various books with readings on the subject; post the material or links to articles they use on their “blackboard” online, or use no textbook at all.
I'm currently teaching and will confirm. I can't tell you how often I get questions from students that are plainly answered in the text.
Bingo! The only book used in college courses that is worth the price is “Machinery's Handbook”. Contrary to the name,it isn't about machines. They are used every day on the job by everyone from engineers to carpenters. Over 2,500 pages of nothing but facts, figures, and formulas that cover everything. Even homeowners should have a copy in their library.
Reading packets can be expensive too, depending on the copyright fees the original publishers charge (I use one, but make it optional), but any university will have some kind of electronic-reserves system (like Blackboard) that allows the articles to be accessed by students for free. But that of course requires a professor to think seriously about what knowledge is important rather than letting a textbook publisher do it for him, to be intimately familiar with the contents of the articles he assigns, and to otherwise take his job seriously. Some professors do that, some don’t.
I’m in college now, and I’ve been ‘lucky’ in that my textbook costs have been $300-400 per semester so far, because it’s not uncommon to see students spending $500-700 on textbooks each semester. Fortunately, the same book is the textbook for all three calculus classes (they cover about a third of the book each), and my humanities classes have been mostly working with paperbacks that are $10-20 on Amazon, and movies that are available through Netflix, so that massively cuts down on costs.
Good Idea. It should be a Universal Policy.
I noticed that 20 years ago, foreign students had purchased paperback versions of the hard cover textbooks we were required to buy. The paperback versions sold for 1/2 to 2/3 of the price of the hard cover books. Unfortunately, at that time, the textbook publishers would not permit the books to be sold in US college bookstores. The students bought their books before coming to the US.
I believe with the coming of Amazon.com US students have been able to purchase these paperback editions at substantial savings (much to the dismay of the college bookstores)
I had been known to assign reading, tell students a test would be taken directly from chapters and have them fail.
My personal favorite was the three semester calculus textbook, which came out in a different, updated, and revised edition about once a semester. It not only rendered your previous purchase out of date, but made it worthless as a used book.
Put the lectures on the DVD, too.
Damn straight. I'm a prof and luckily I teach in a grad program where most classes use readings from journals. Students download the articles from the school library databases. When I choose a book, I am careful about the price and will also refer students to Amazon's used book service. That may be harder to do with undergrads, who generally use a text book.
I once had a class where the course pack (photocopied articles bound by the copy center) was $100!! A course pack!
When I went thru school, I kept a mental note of what not to do when I became a prof - ordering expensive texts is #1 on the list.
I should have read before posting #28!
In my day, textbooks cost about $150 per academic quarter in undergraduate classes, but of course far more when I got to graduate school and started buying medical books. The advantage of investing in those medical texts is that some of them remain on my bookshelf and are used, lo, these many years later.
Recently my daughter has been spending $800 per semester, and that was a reduced number since she bought used books on Amazon. And as someone else remarked, she rarely used the texts. The relevant material for the course was always in lectures and online.
My sister works at DePaul and they are working with the professors to put their lectures on the IPODU website.
Why is it that the liberals, particularly the liberals in academia, are quick to condemn the oil companies for “profiteering”, but say nothing at all about the outrageous prices that students are being charged for textbooks?
How true. I doubt that introductory calculus has changed since Isaac Newton, yet the textbooks are “revised” constantly.
The book for Human Anatomy $186.75, Human Physiology $178.50, Microbiology $144.20, Microbiology Laboratory Theory and Application, 2nd Edition used $29.95, Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition used $27.50.
The professors at the school choose which textbooks they will use. The professor of Microbiology is an arrogant know-it-all SOB. He chose a new addition and refused to let the students use a used book or an addition that was two years old.
The cost of getting an education is out of the world.
When I was going for my masters the cost was $27.00 per semester hour and books were priced new in the $20.00 range.
Yep, school cost are a scam and getting worse by the day.
These schools of higher learning are sticking to the student, mom an Dad.
My books in college in the 90s cost $60 to $100 new. I bought used when I could, but I hated getting a book that had been highlighted already. What really made me mad was when they would buy them back at the end of the year for $15 and then resell them the next year for $40. I never sold back a book because of that.
You get way more education value out of those $500 books than the $20,000 you pay for a semester at a private college.
Why would anyone want a paperback edition of machinery’s handbook?
Mine fits in my toolbox, a hardcover wouldn’t