Wednesday, February 4, 2009

College Textbooks: The Rip-off Needs to End

A few weeks ago, a new semester opened at the University of Indianapolis. The class I teach this spring semester is State and Local Government. Traditionally I've used a textbook by Thomas R. Dye.

The publishers of these textbooks, especially political science textbooks, rush out a new edition every couple years. Ostensibly it is to update the tome to include recent events. In reality, it is a way of cutting off the use of discounted used books by students the publisher can charge the full price for a new one.

This semester I noticed that the publisher went from a hardback version to one with a paper cover. The price didn't go down though. I was astonished, and disgusted, with the price they wanted to charge these college kids for one stinking paperback book: $125.

No more. I've taught State & Local Government as well as other classes since 1987. I instead ordered the 400 page book "Here is Your Indiana Government" from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. It cost my students about $14 apiece with tax. I am using that book as well as the extensive amount of notes I have accumulated over years of teaching to teach this spring's class. I saved each student about $110 or about $1,760 total for my 16 students.

The price of the textbooks has rarely been a consideration for most professors and instructors when choosing which book to use in class. I doubt most of my colleagues even know the price of the textbook used in class. We just place our order and get our free desk copy. Maybe that needs to change. Tuition is expensive enough without students also getting ripped off by the textbook publishers.


Anonymous said...

Good on you, mate.

Use public domain stuff, if you can.

varangianguard said...

Good for you, Paul. Textbooks are quite the racket - all the way around.

For whomever is paying, it can be quite the sticker shock.

Unknown said...

Ok, but publishers do not offer new updated versions if they were not bought. When making textbooks, it is not just one person who takes photo's, writes chapters, edits for facts, spelling, paginates, indexes, customizes... You may know politics, but you need to get another degree in business as well as some common sense in capitalistic societies. Indianapolis has a college text book publisher, maybe you contact them and learn the business of making a book.