DailyDirt: Those Who Can, Write Textbooks...

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Textbooks are surprisingly expensive items. The classic example is an introductory math textbook: where the math hasn't changed significantly for over a hundred years, but the price of the newest edition seems to suggest that there should be a lot of new material added to the book. Sure, there's a used book market -- and even rental books nowadays -- but the trend of rising textbook prices has some students and faculty questioning some of the publishing industry's practices. After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

Filed Under: academic freedom, education, integral house, james stewart, oer, open educational resources, open textbook, supap kirtsaeng, textbooks


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  • identicon
    Socrates, 21 Jan 2016 @ 7:25pm

    "Out of print" textbooks

    When the author of a textbook sign away his rights to get published, the publisher often deliberately chooses to withdraw the book within approximately 2 years, and bar the author from any alternative publishing of the work. This also makes fewer books "recoup", and trap the author to the publisher.

    Math textbook have exercises that artificially change from year to year. This forces students to buy the latest issued book to be able to follow explanations of how to solve these problems.

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    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:20am

      Re: "Out of print" textbooks

      A public pool of exercises, open sourced, should solve this issue. You can use the same books and get the exercises elsewhere. We will get to end the monopoly for sure. But for now you are right, students are getting shafted.

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    • icon
      klaus (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 5:12am

      Re: "Out of print" textbooks

      Just thinking out loud, but I wonder how publishers could prevent authors from re-publishing their work, as you suggest, using freshened up exercises? If this practice works for producers to generate new sales, surely it would work for authors too...

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 6:45am

        Re: Re: "Out of print" textbooks

        Note that the way that publishers get new sales is by shuffling the contents, re-ordering chapters, examples and problems. This makes it very difficult for students to use older copies, as the page numbers etc. do not match those being used by the teacher.
        The publishers do not need or want new content, and when they do, they just continue with their tricks to make for new sales.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re: "Out of print" textbooks

          What happened to the practice (I experienced in the 1970s) of having a main textbook in hardcover but the exercises were in a paperback volume that changed each year? That way the hardcover - at least for math books - could be used for a number of years but students would have to buy the paperback volume each year?

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          • icon
            Arthur Moore (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 12:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Out of print" textbooks

            The publishers can make more money if students have to buy all new textbooks. It's greed pure and simple.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    FauxReal (profile), 21 Jan 2016 @ 10:05pm

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with Rice University and others created OpenStax Textbooks as an open source and cheap set of college level textbooks. Though adoption appears to be pretty slow.

    https://openstaxcollege.org/

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:18am

    Should academic freedom allow a professor to chose a different textbook from his/her colleagues?

    Absolutely. The learning institution itself should include many alternatives even if they are not from their own professors. It's a matter of style. Some teachers are more comfortable with one method or another, there usually isn't a 'one fits all' in these cases.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 6:30am

    Is this why many universities force most profs into Adjunct positions - in order to financially arm twist them into requiring the latest expensive texts?

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  • identicon
    Joe, 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:38am

    wow - i took several classes with James Stewart. He was an amazing teacher and his textbooks were beautiful in their simplicity. He would often draw parallels to music noting the matching of the integral sign with the 'f' sound hole in the violin and cello. Very sorry to hear he passed away last year.

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  • icon
    Arthur Moore (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 12:10pm

    One gets reprimanded, the other gets $$

    I know that one about textbooks is somewhat old, but I'm still amazed by it. I mean, it's hard to imagine more of a conflict of interest for the department chair to mandate his own book.

    I know at my university they had signs saying to call if we spotted this kind of "fraud, waste, or abuse."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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