about those used college texts...

chery2September 14, 2003

I swore that when I retired, one of my soap-box issues would be the horrendous cost of college textbooks. Now I am, so here I go. It became obvious to me that the PROFESSORS were in CAHOOTS with the textbook people when I took a Human Growth and Development couse for my Master's Degree [2000], and a friend who had taken the same course 2 years before offered to lend me the book she'd bought new -- same title, author, publisher, DIFFERENT EDITION. I asked the prof it that would be ok, and she hemmed and hawed and finally said she couldn't guarantee that her test questions would have the same answers, since she based her questions on material from the REVISED EDITION. Well, for $140 I decided to take the chance. Geeze Louise! The test questions were either about things that haven't changed or things that required our own personal experience -- in other words, the book for the course could have been more than 10 years old, and the answers to the questions would not have been one bit different! MY DD was very good at seeking out used books [Varsity Books), and she had a job in the bookstore that gave big discounts, and friends willing to share. DOWN WITH TEXTBOOK ROBBERY!!! CHERY-VA

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"It became obvious to me that the PROFESSORS were in CAHOOTS with the textbook people"

Absolutely! I reviewed a textbook proposal, and the author spent a lot of time explaining how he could guarantee that the materials couldn't be reused.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2003 at 4:10PM
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Well, when I was a teaching assistant in the English Department of a large university, I got to plan my courses and choose the books to use. Each semester, the English Department sponsered a book fair, where publishers would come and display all their text books. Those of us teaching Freshman English were supposed to keep the cost of all the books for our courses to about $50 to $60, including the required grammar reference book. THE PUBLISHERS REPS WOULD NOT TELL US THE COST OF THE BOOKS. We would ask and ask because we were all grad students and knew just how expensive books could be, and they would go into vague statements. True, the more classes that ordered the same book, the lower the cost of the individual book, because the publishers give volume discounts. But they wouldn't even give us the base, non-discounted, cost of the book. So sometimes the professor has no idea of what the cost is.

Also, the publishers give vague discriptions of what has been "updated," so the professors don't really know what is changed until they have read the whole book.

Yes, some professors write their own text books. It's the publishers who insist on "updates" and new editons so that they can sell more copies. It's a big business with a captive audience.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2003 at 6:05PM
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Always check out buy.com and ebay for used textbooks. There are some cases where an older edition won't work. Some professors assign homework from the textbook questions and the questions can change from edition to edition.

Some colleges are looking for ways to help save students' money on textbooks. I know a few rent the books from year to year for a lot less than for what one could buy them. A professor I had for history used an on-line textbook, until the company went out of business and we couldn't access the website any more. Another teacher taught psychology from the book he wrote, but you could easily ace the tests from the lecture notes. Sometimes, it's worth waiting to buy the book until you see the first test. Many teachers just test on the lectures, so the book is only there for reference or clarification. It depends on the type of class too. Math books are often needed because problems are assigned from the book. But there is no reason that you can't share the book with another classmate, saving 1/2 the cost of the book. I bought a couple of books in subjects that were in my major because I thought I could use them again (which I did).

I agree that textbooks are a major scam. There are ways around it, though. And the more people who fight for cheaper options, the better for all students. So lobby your universities and teachers for options. They do care (mostly).

    Bookmark   September 21, 2003 at 10:02PM
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