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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 10:57 PM
Original message
The College Textbook Ripoff is Worse Than Ever
Once again, it's open season on American college students. The textbook publishers and college bookstores all have hunting licenses.

The books for just one of my classes cost $333.10 at the Student Ripoff Store. They were shrink-wrapped (of course) so I had to buy all or none. I stared at the price. I tried to shop around, but one of the books was available nowhere else - it was "customized" for that particular class.

Unlike some other victims of this scam, I didn't absolutely need that particular class. I dropped it and signed up for a different class.
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ghostsofgiants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. It really is a horrible racket.
I hate it.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:09 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. But it's perfectly legal,
just like the prescription drug scam. In both cases, the bad guys have a license to print money.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 07:49 AM
Response to Reply #1
22. It IS a horrible racket, and has been for decades.

It was when I went to college in the 1970's.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #22
55. The racket is well documented.
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CaliforniaPeggy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:03 PM
Response to Original message
2. My guess is that they feel the college student
is a captive audience...

Good for you!

And it's too bad for the rest of the college population...

They are stuck...

Graduation has its requirements...

I feel for them, I truly do...

:hi:
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:26 PM
Response to Reply #2
7. You've got the picture.
Most college students have low paying jobs and really feel the pinch at the bookstore. Their choices are limited, as you pointed out.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:04 PM
Response to Original message
3. What book was it?
Edited on Wed Sep-05-07 11:04 PM by Book Lover
I work as a project editor for a college textbook publisher (*donning nomex suit*) and am curious as to what package is priced at over $300. That's a new height in my experience.

on edit: Sorry, I didn't read clearly enough. May I ask how many books were bundled in that package?
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:21 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Three books.
1. John E. McMurry: Organic Chemistry: A Biological Approach (with ThomsonNOW Printed Access Card) (Hardcover)

2. Study Guide/Solutions Manual for McMurry's Organic Chemistry: A Biological Approach (Paperback)

3 Pavia et al.: Introduction to Organic Laboratory Techniques, 2nd ed., ISBN 9780495469360 (specialized for CSULB and not sold anywhere else AFAIK).

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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 12:00 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. OK, I used to work for Thomson
so I think I can, if you are interested, talk with some intelligence about the bundle you saw on your shelf.

The main book (which, if you were still taking the class, you could buy direct from Thomson from this page http://e-catalog.thomsonlearning.com/150l / , though I don't see the study guide for sale) is 1376 4-color pages. Now, I used to work production so I can say that the budget to produce that book was very likely in the area of $100-120,000 (development editing, illustrations and art editing, copy editing, page layout, etc). That does not include the printing and binding (I'm much fuzzier here, but I think an estimate of $5-9 per unit is fair. So if this book had a print run of about 10,000 - likely - that'd be an additional $50-90,000 to the overall budget), nor the college bookstore markup (25-40% I have seen on campus), nor the NOW budget, which is probably around $25,000.

The Study Guide, if it's 4-color, I'd estimate to be about a quarter of the above figures. Ditto the lab manual. Oh, and let's not forget that the author gets his 12% royalty. Then the useful (me, the production staff, the archivists, salesmen) and the not-useful (marketing, back-end, top-heavy administration) staffers get to get paid.

So the margins are large, yes, but not huge. And it's not all going into one pocket (unless you count the CEO) - it takes many people to make even a simple one-color textbook.

OK, flame away.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 12:52 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. Thanks for a thoughtful and informative post.
Your post is not flamebait by any means.

The main book and the study guide are available from many sources. The problem is the lab manual; when I google the ISBN of the manual, I get zero hits. I don't think you will find this lab manual for sale on the Thomson web site or anywhere else besides the CSULB Student Ripoff Store. (Okay, I'm continuing to flame the store. They deserve it.)

For the main book, if I add your mean estimates $110K + 70K + 25K and divide by 10,000 books, I get a projected partial cost per book of $20.50. Can that be right?

What does NOW stand for?

Amazon.com sells the main book and the study guide for $126.28 and $58.13, respectively. If I subtract these prices from $333.10, I find that the Student Ripoff Store is effectively charging $148.69 for the lab manual. Do you think that's a reasonable price for a lab manual?

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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 09:43 PM
Response to Reply #11
63. Since that lab manual is custom, you won't find it anywhere else
It's impossible for me to say what makes that particular custom product custom; it could be that it has very specific information related to that professor's course - her lecture outlines, for example.

Yes, that per-unit cost sounds about right - but again, the numbers I gave above only account for the production and manufacturing of the book. It doesn't include the royalty to the author(s), overhead, etc.

Damn, what *does* NOW stand for.... something-online-something. Sorry, I haven't worked there for almost a year; I must have forgotten.

Without knowing how many pages, how many authors, or how many colors the lab manual is, I can't say with certainty, but nearly $150 for a lab manual does seem high. I understood they usually run between $80-$100.
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WindRavenX Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:41 PM
Response to Reply #6
52. I paid 200 for that 3 years ago. My god, this is ridiculous.
And good luck with o-chem...it killed me.
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ThomCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:05 PM
Response to Original message
4. I worked for a professor who wrote one of the best known
text books in his field.

Every few years he reversed the order of a few chapters and edited a few paragraphs so that he could publish a "new edition."

He made a fortune selling different versions of the same book, over and over and over again.

It really is a total scam.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-05-07 11:30 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. Yep. I met a retired professor
who makes more money from his textbook (which he constantly revises) than he ever did as a teacher.
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ZombieNixon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 12:12 AM
Response to Original message
10. Oh, yes, it is. I sort of beat it today, though.
I bought one of my textbooks ($100). I then went to work and scanned all the pages I'd need for the next week. I returned the book and got my money back and then ordered it from Amazon for $30.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 12:55 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. Good for you.
Fight 'em any way you can.
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Yukari Yakumo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 01:03 AM
Response to Original message
13. Half.com is your friend {nt}
uguu
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 03:18 AM
Response to Original message
14. The worst ripoffs are course packets
Printed off, put together selections of photocopied manuscripts, usually for English or History classes, that contain all the required readings for the course. You MUST buy it, it's NOT returnable if you drop the class, it costs a FORTUNE (mine are usually $50-$100 bucks), and you can't resell it at the end of the semester. It is a COMPLETE scam. I have already spent around $400 bucks this semester and I just added a class. The books for it will set me back another hundred.

It is bullshit.
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TheMightyFavog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 03:43 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. Ever consider this?
Edited on Thu Sep-06-07 03:44 AM by JonathanChance
Borrow one of the packets from a friend, sit down at a scanner and scan all the pages into a .pdf file.

I know people who do this with their D&D books, and have hinted at doing the same for college textbooks, particularly a quite infamous textbook for the public speaking class at my alma mater custom written by the professor who teaches the class. BTW, this public speaking class is required for graduation. He revisies it every year so he can get away with not putting it in the textbook rental program. (UW-SP has a textbook rental program where students just rent their textbooks for most classes in exchange for a small fee included in thier tuition.) UWSP's student government and this professor have been fighting for years over the textbook issue.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:27 AM
Response to Reply #15
23. When you see groups of high school students on campus,
You might mention this problem to them. That would get the attention of the administration. :evilgrin:
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TheMightyFavog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 04:36 PM
Response to Reply #23
39. Especailly coming from an alumnus!
But then again, I never had to take this class. The public speaking class I took at junior college transferred.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 07:49 PM
Response to Reply #14
53. Yes, the cost of course packets is appalling
Unfortunately, there's really no way around it if the professor wants to provide a set of readings for a particular class, if most of the readings are consistent from semester to semester, due to copyright issues. You can't make the copies yourself and pass them out to students, and even library reserves (which students then have to go get) won't work for multiple semesters, except for items that the library actually holds. The only cheap option that will work consistently in terms of copyright is to provide a list of readings that students are responsible for obtaining on their own -- which might not be so onerous for recent publications, but which would be a nightmare all around for older things, and/or things not held by the library.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #53
64. California State University at Long Beach no longer has a functioning library.
The building they call a library is a construction zone. Half of it is being transformed into classrooms and faculty offices. Half of what's left is off-limits at any one time. The administration has proudly decided to "down-size the print collection". They built a Starbucks inside the "library" to take away yet more space. Meanwhile, the number of students continues to grow.

By way of compensation, they are good about interlibrary loans. I can get decent copies of materials the library DOESN'T have.

If the library has what I want, but it doesn't circulate, then I am out of luck. I have to copy it myself on machines that don't work worth shit. The maintenance on those copying machines is handled by the same Student Ripoff Store I have been ranting about.

How's that for irony?

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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:25 PM
Response to Reply #64
68. Ooh, downsizing print collections...
I always hate to hear that phrase. I've been lucky that the libraries at the schools I've been at haven't done that; however, my grad institution *did* solve the overflow problem at the library by moving big chunks of the collection to an off-site storage facility. They were usually pretty quick about getting you things from that facility, but it could sometimes be a real pain. What was just priceless, though, was how they cut back on the shelf space devoted to journals -- apparently each journal was allocated X amount of shelf space, and anything beyond that was sent off-site. Well, instead of working from the most recent end of their holdings, for some journals they worked from the *oldest* end...so, for some of the ones I used, the volumes from the 1920s were at the library, but the newer ones weren't! (They did fix it...but it was annoying at the time!)

And the copy machines in the library were the bane of my existence as a grad student, especially before the main journals in my field got their back issues archived online. I got to where I knew exactly where each of the handful of older copiers were located -- those were the ones that still had the old setup that allowed you to fix paper jams yourself. I think they were up to 10-12 cents a page by the time I left, which is just outrageous.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:40 AM
Response to Reply #68
89. At CSULB they are building an automated system
to store and retrieve books. The books will be in containers that are moved around by robots.

Since the automated system will preclude browsing, we will have to know exactly what we want before we can fetch it. This will require the catalog to store more information, with greater accuracy, than ever before. It will save space but will make more work for librarians. I can only hope the budget will be sufficient to keep the catalog up to date.

Many of the shelves that used to hold books and journals are already gone, but the robotic system is not yet operating. Obviously books and journals have very low priority compared, say, to Starbucks. One way to downsize the print collection is to spill coffee on it.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:19 PM
Response to Reply #53
66. Some classes put the readings online
It can be a pain in the ass, especially if the prof wants you to print it out and bring it to class, but it's a HELL of a lot cheaper than buying those goddamn course packets. One of my professors this semester actually put all the readings online because the course packet would've been 90 bucks.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:30 PM
Response to Reply #66
70. That would be the obvious option
However, when I asked about that option, I was told that even if the readings were posted on a password-protected website (like Blackboard or Oncourse) it was still not allowed under copyright regs, especially if the readings would be posted for more than one semester. Not that anyone is really completely certain *what* the laws allow and don't allow, of course!
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:55 PM
Response to Reply #70
76. Whoever told you that is lying
I would guess, based on what you were told, that your university's library doesn't want to pay a fee to host the material on their server - that's where all my online readings have been. Our library's website has a password-protected section of e-reserves, which any prof, as far as I know, can use. I don't know if the original documents have to be in our library's collection in order for the profs to post them as e-reserves or not, though. I admit I don't know copyright law, but I do know stuff CAN be posted online, because several of my classes have done this.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 11:00 PM
Response to Reply #76
77. Not necessarily
E-rights are separate from print rights, and a copyright holder can refuse the one or the other.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 11:07 PM
Response to Reply #77
79. So would my library have paid a fee to the publishers to have the right to post them online?
I actually am curious now as to how this works. I've always had ready access to articles on electronic reserves, and it never really occured to me that other university libraries wouldn't.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:09 PM
Response to Reply #79
109. If you are talking about InfoTrac,
then Thomson (or whoever owns InfoTrac now) has to obtain e-rights and make payment to the rightsholder, whoever that is (e.g., the AMA). If you are talking abut an arrangement between your university's library and the journals, then e-rights, AFAIK, are *probably* bundled with the library's subscription. So short answer, yes.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 12:19 AM
Response to Reply #76
81. This wasn't to do with the library, actually
Edited on Fri Sep-07-07 12:25 AM by Piltdown13
Online course reserves *would* be on the library's web server, but what I was referring to was posting materials on Blackboard -- course management website that's not part of the library's web space. We can post pretty much whatever we want on Blackboard with no middleman; the reason I asked my colleagues about posting readings there was actually because part of the library orientation for new faculty was about e-reserves, and I couldn't imagine why they'd bother with e-reserves when we could just post stuff to Blackboard ourselves! Apparently it's not something they want you doing semester after semester.

Online course reserves (part of the library for us as well) work great -- at least until you want to put the same thing on reserve more than one semester in a row. That's when I discovered the fact that only things that the library holds can be put on e-reserve in a more or less unlimited way. E-reserves in general are very helpful because the library staff isn't going to post things that will violate copyright, so you don't have to worry about it yourself -- of course, I'm sure that libraries will each interpret the law in a different way.

You're right that class readings are posted online -- actually they're all over the place; I regularly find readings posted to regular, non-password protected websites when I'm prepping for class. Most of that isn't *supposed* to be posted, though (although I don't know that you'd necessarily get in trouble for it). This is why I really wish that copyright regulations could be loosened up considerably, at least in educational settings.

Edit -- Just to clarify, it's no problem at all for us to post any readings we want to e-reserves here (subject to the usual restrictions -- one article per issue of a journal; one chapter per book) -- at least the first time we want to assign them. If you want to post the same stuff in consecutive semesters (and possibly in future, non-consecutive semesters; I haven't encountered that situation yet), our library won't let you do that unless the materials are held by the library or copyright fees are paid (I think). It's not something that you'd probably ever encounter as a student, or perhaps even as a faculty member unless you taught the same course each semester.
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Nikia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 06:03 PM
Response to Reply #14
133. For us, these were always under $50
In one class, it was only $10.
I didn't think that it was that bad since the classes requiring books always cost more and at my college, you didn't usually get very much selling used books.
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smedwed Donating Member (51 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 05:35 AM
Response to Original message
16. UK
My uni in the UK offers student grants for course books.
You can get half the money you paid for any books back-
up to 150 (or 300 if you're doing medicine, vet, etc).
You just have to remember the receipts.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:37 AM
Response to Reply #16
24. Textbook prices are more reasonable in the Europe than in the USA.
Often the "international" edition of an American textbook costs about half as much as the regular edition. Or it did the last time I checked.

But the weakness of the dollar has probably reduced the price differential.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 09:37 PM
Response to Reply #24
62. Want to know a secret about that?
International editions (which, by the way, sometimes *do* have different content so you can't always count on them being identical) are cheaper overseas because mean incomes are lower than here in North America. They lose money on those sales. Guess where they make up the difference?
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:09 PM
Response to Reply #62
65. No guessing required.
Textbooks and drugs are more expensive in the USA than anywhere else. Textbook publishers and pharmaceutical companies exhibit similar behavior, for similar reasons.
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NJCher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:10 AM
Response to Reply #62
86. Want to know another secret?
The same goes for pharmaceuticals. I actually heard a pharmaceutical executive come right out and say that pharmaceuticals for Canada were less expensive because of the mean income (this is when I worked in the business). How much can you pay? That's how they decide the price.

Same goes for many other countries.

So in other words, the American consumer is providing the profit.

Wonder what they'll do now that they've picked the middle and lower classes clean and there is no room for their profit.



Cher
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MissHoneychurch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 05:46 AM
Response to Original message
17. Shouldn't they have those books
at the college library?

Just wondering.
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Tyler Durden Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:44 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. Tried that when I was in College.
One or two copies.

Usually a fight to the death over the last one in the stacks, and the one checked out will be kept all term for the much, much cheaper overdue fees.
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mitchum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #18
34. That was always my tactic during college, but with a twist...
I worked at Kinko's during college, so I would check out the textbook, copy it at work, return the book, and make additional copies for any of my classmates who were also sick of the textbook scam.
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Tyler Durden Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #34
35. I could never get my hands on one of the damned things.
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bicentennial_baby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:46 AM
Response to Reply #17
19. Check this out...At my school,
If a Prof puts text in the Electronic reserve (Online), they aren't allowed to put books on physical reserve. :crazy:

Keep in mind, the texts online and the books are different ones!
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:54 PM
Response to Reply #19
56. Damn, copyright is bizarre!
So, if you put something from Book A on online reserve, you can't place Book B on physical reserve? I can't even imagine what kind of twisted logic leads to a policy like that!

At my school, I've been told that I can't put things on online (and possibly physical) reserve for multiple semesters UNLESS I leave my copy on physical reserve also. (And there's apparently no problem with putting extracts on reserve for items the library owns.)

I've gone round and round trying to figure this out, and as far as I can tell, the current state of copyright law is such that no one is at all certain what is legal and what isn't in terms of course reserves or their equivalent.
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huskerlaw Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 02:12 PM
Response to Reply #17
33. Not necessarily
At my library (law school), our policy is to NOT buy textbooks. Unless the professor specifically requests that we have a copy on reserve. The reasoning? Legal textbooks have ZERO research value. We're a research-based library. Textbooks don't fit our mission statement.
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YDogg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 09:06 PM
Response to Reply #17
60. Many college/university libraries do not buy textbooks ...
... except under extraordinary circumstances. They become dated as fast in the library as in the classroom, and they cost a fortune. As it is, libraries spend a great deal for some books.
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Nikia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 05:59 PM
Response to Reply #17
132. That was an option for some of my classes
Some of the professors put the books on reserve, which meant that they were in a certain section of the library. The books could not leave the library and you had to return them to the shelves after two hours. Using textbooks like this worked best for lecture based courses, not courses that required discussion, a lot of reading, or homework based on the textbook.
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Lethe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 07:00 AM
Response to Original message
20. $330 for two classes here
I tried every trick in the book (online stores, international editions, local used book stores, campus library)

No luck, had to pay the bookstore prices.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:15 AM
Response to Reply #20
26. I'm sorry to hear that.
But I'm not surprised.

Sometimes you have no reasonable alternative. The bad guys plan it that way.
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triguy46 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 07:41 AM
Response to Original message
21. The professors choose the books and extra materials...
the publisher sets the price. The bookstore is much like a retail pharmacy, the tail end of a very big dragon. Aim your ire at the professor who gets a cut of sales or their academic department that gets a kickback. This has been investigated at our campus by numerous committees and our bookstore is not the culprit, except to the extent that they cannot give the books away.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:49 AM
Response to Reply #21
25. Some college bookstores are better than others.
If the bookstore shrink-wraps the pile of books for each class, it is part of the problem.

Some professors are whores to the publishers. Others do what they can to keep the prices down.

Students can fight the scam if they know about it.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 09:03 PM
Response to Reply #25
59. And some publishers are obnoxious, too
Just over the past few years, I've noticed that textbook publishers are bringing out new editions of intro texts in my field MUCH more frequently than they used to -- and, quite frankly, more often than is truly necessary to keep up with the field. Once the new edition is out, you can't use the old one anymore (the bookstore won't be able to get enough on the used market), something I ran into headon this semester. So much for giving students the option of used books!

My school even sends faculty an e-mail every year reminding us of the state's commmitment to keeping student textbook costs down and floating ideas for how we can do our part, but it's pretty hard to do when the publishers are working against us.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:20 PM
Response to Reply #59
67. I wouldn't give up on those used copies of older editions.
Students don't need to buy used books at the campus bookstore. There are plenty of web sites where older editions can be found. The prices are usually quite low.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:33 PM
Response to Reply #67
72. Perhaps...
But when we're talking about ~120 students who all need to have the book right away...something to consider for the future, though!
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:50 PM
Response to Reply #59
74. May I ask what your field is?
The industry standard for new editions is every three years, varying by discipline. And have you said this to your sales reps? If we get enough feedback, something may change. Do you get recruited to do reviews? That's another way to get your voice heard...
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 12:43 AM
Response to Reply #74
82. I'm an anthropologist
Edited on Fri Sep-07-07 12:57 AM by Piltdown13
I've taught mostly in biological anthropology, but there's some archaeology mixed in as well. To be honest, I haven't been teaching as a faculty member long enough to really get a feel for how often new editions come out across all publishers -- I switched texts a lot when teaching as a grad student, and the reps in my former part of the country didn't really care all that much about seeing to our needs! I'm only now getting to know the reps for some of the publishers; they actually show up at my office, but this is just my second year on the faculty.

That's interesting about the standard for new editions. I think there have only been two years between editions of the text I'm using right now, but I don't have the old one in front of me to check. The thing is, I'm kind of torn about the whole issue of time between editions. On the one hand, I don't want the students to go broke buying texts for my class; on the other hand, parts of biological anthropology (especially human evolution and genetics) move so fast that from the perspective of coverage, I like new editions. Of course, I can always supplement, but it's not quite the same.

I just got recruited on Wednesday to do reviews for one of the publishers -- she actually asked if I was interested in writing or reviewing for them! (The writing part kind of threw me; one would think they'd want people further along in their careers to write materials...) I told her to put me down on her list, so we'll see what happens.

Edit: clarity
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:58 PM
Response to Reply #21
58. Of course, the only professor who gets a cut...
would be the one assigning a textbook he or she wrote, right? I've never heard of departments getting kickbacks, either, but then I'm in the social sciences -- is this discipline-specific or all over your campus?

I guess it's just hard for me to get my head around, because I can't imagine my colleagues putting up with a situation where the department was telling us what texts to assign!
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:29 PM
Response to Reply #58
69. Publishers have lots of ways of buying professors.
One way is to pay the professor to write a book review. The book to be reviewed must be used in that professor's class. The pay is lavish, and the "review" is never published anywhere.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:42 PM
Response to Reply #69
73. Interesting.
Edited on Thu Sep-06-07 10:45 PM by Piltdown13
I actually just had a publisher's rep in my office yesterday, and she asked if I'd be interested in reviewing or writing for them. My impression was that the reviewing was a version of peer review (just getting an outside opinion for the benefit of the publisher or the author), and the payment mentioned was nominal (we're talking not much more than the price of the books I assigned this semester!).

Having said that, there's no way I'd review a book on the condition that it be used in my class, no matter how much they offered to pay me!

I have to wonder if this is something that goes on throughout academic publishing, or if it's a few "bad actors" among publishers and faculty (or if perhaps it's mostly found in certain fields -- I'm thinking here primarily of areas like business, technology, and such). Maybe I've just been lucky, but it's very difficult for me to imagine most faculty I know going for this sort of thing, not because we have exceptional ethical principles, but because of the strings attached; nobody I know would react well to the idea of anyone trying to manipulate (or force) their choice of text.

On edit -- Now that I read your post again -- Wow, that's really sleazy! It basically sounds like a kickback, but with the review as a cover.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:52 PM
Response to Reply #69
75. I have to say that I have never heard of that happening
and I have been witness to some sleazy things. What discipline did this happen in?
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 02:04 AM
Response to Reply #75
93. You can read all about it
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:32 PM
Response to Reply #93
112. you're absolutely correct.,..I've seen it in anthropology
a field with arguably one of the most contentious circles of debate regarding what constitutes a "good textbook". Hell, once I showed 2 semesters of loyalty I was offered the opportunity to write a review, but then again everyone who used the book for a certain period of time was... then the company researched who was top dawg out of the interested parties and went with that review.
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:01 AM
Response to Reply #69
84. I've reviewed texts-- I've never been paid a dime for it....
It is an occasional courtesy in exchange for publishers providing free review copies-- which many will do regardless, but if they request a review I try to accommodate them if I can.
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 12:56 AM
Response to Reply #21
83. "Aim your ire at the professor who gets a cut of sales..."
Where can I sign up for a deal like that?!

Seriously-- no one I know gets any "cut" or kickback from textbook sales unless it's their royalty because they wrote the book. One of my ex-students once emailed exactly that silly allegation to the rest of the class, that their text price was so high because I (the prof) was getting a kickback on book sales.

If only that were so! :rofl:
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:04 AM
Response to Reply #83
85. It does sound odd, doesn't it?
I also haven't heard of the other setup mentioned upthread, where the kickback is hidden under the ruse of a book review. Maybe I'm just not in the right field! :-)
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:37 PM
Response to Reply #85
113. I'm tellin' ya, these things DO happen
the biggest racket being the "new edition" released by a prof under a "private" publisher; IE no peer review. Of course only a well-known, popular professor could get away with this. I took this one class at University of Albany called "Exploration of Space", an infamous "cake" class to take to get a science requirement out of the way. EVERY FUCKING SEMESTER the two profs who co-taught the class added a new chapter and maybe got rid of one. The text was cheaply bound, cost $95, and was from one of those independent publishers; i.e. throw us some money and we'll bound your thing up real nice. Peer review be damned! This of course was widely known and the profs defended it as the "only way" to expose students to new, provocative research and news in the field. :eyes:
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 01:04 PM
Response to Reply #113
116. Look, I'm not trying to contradict reports that it's happened
All I was saying is that I've never heard of it happening in departments I've been part of, nor have I ever been approached. The only time I've even had reviewing mentioned to me actually involved a publisher whose books I've not been using -- they just wanted to put me in the reviewer pool. Of course, it may be that they'll try to pull something unethical when a book actually needs to be reviewed, but I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Above you mention how contentious the question of what constitutes a "good" textbook is in anthropology. I agree, although in my (apparently very limited) experience, we just bitch at each other about how impossible it is to find a book that covers topics in just the way we'd like. It sounds like at least some publishers are trying to take advantage of this -- can I ask which ones? (I'd just like to know who the bad actors are in the spirit of knowing who I'm dealing with when I place a textbook order.)
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:19 PM
Response to Reply #116
122. the worst publisher in my experience has been McGraw-Hill
and the horrible textbook/exams/powerpoints/kitchen sink package I'm specifically thinking of is Conrad Kottak's Cultural Anthropology, now in its 12th edition :eyes: Although I DO have to say that I've had good experiences with Annual Editions. I personally use Robbins' Cultural Anthropology: A Problem Based Approach
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:47 PM
Response to Reply #122
126. Oh, I love Annual Editions
Their physical anthropology edition is just about the best reader I've seen; I'm actually able to use more than half of the articles. I'll keep in mind their tactics surrounding their other publications, though. I wonder, though, if they're more aggressive with the cultural texts because that market is so much bigger than the biological anthro market.
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grace0418 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:47 AM
Response to Original message
27. We used to get together with a few people in the class and buy one textbook between
several of us. Then we'd photocopy the chapters as needed and make multiple copies for the group of us. I actually preferred reading the copies rather than lugging a heavy textbook around. The book was in pristine condition at the end of the class and we could sell it back for the best price (though still a rip-off)
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skygazer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:50 AM
Response to Original message
28. I'm taking five law classes this quarter
I'm quaking in my shoes about what its going to cost for the textbooks - they will be posted next week. :scared:
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SoxFan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 11:23 AM
Response to Reply #28
104. Law texts are just the start
You start off with the asssigned casebook, but then you have to figure in the cost of a commercial outline, a "nutshell" and/or a hornbook.
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skygazer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 11:40 AM
Response to Reply #104
106. One thing that's cool is that I have a Lexis account
The school provided it for one of my spring classes and it's still active - very handy indeed.
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SoxFan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 11:56 AM
Response to Reply #106
107. Be careful, though
That thing is like crack. It's easy to become addicted to it, but when you go out in the real world, you discover that it's too expensive for most practitioners. I've used it maybe three times in the last few years. Since my practice is focused largely on domestic relations and state administrative actions, I can find most of what I need on Casemaker, which the bar association provides to members.

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skygazer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:02 PM
Response to Reply #107
108. I can see how that would be
What a handy little tool! If nothing else, it sure helps with the homework. :hi:
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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:57 AM
Response to Original message
29. What baffles me...
Is how so much could change from one semester to the next in our understanding of, say, Shakespeare's plays or basic calculus. Surely there must be some major revision to our knowledge to justify the twice yearly revision (and immediate obsolescence) of a $140 textbook, right?
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gmoney Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 11:24 AM
Response to Reply #29
31. exactly...
which is why all college courses should be taught from the Bible, which has never changed...

:sarcasm:

Funny how it contrasts with high school/grade school where the same textbook is good enough to use for 8 or 10 years (at least when I was in school back in the stone age). I remember having history texts that sort of petered out around the civil rights movement or maybe the moon landing.

Churn and burn textbooks are a ripoff, I'll agree. The irony is, since they only stick around for a few months, they print fewer copies, which means they must charge a much higher unit price, since they only have a few months instead of several years to amortize the investment in publishing the thing.

On the other hand, I heard somewhere that it would be possible to print inexpensive versions of popular books (Harry Potter, etc) that could be sold to libraries which would be cheaper to just GIVE AWAY than to catalog and process the checking-in and out and reserves and all that.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 02:04 PM
Response to Reply #29
32. Heh heh.
There is a major revision in the ISBN to kill the used-book market.

Each new edition is usually a few pages longer than the previous edition. Some of those pages may be blank or may use very large type. Often there are lists of "key concepts" or unnecessary summaries of what you have just read. There are many ways to add pages without adding content. Publishers have discovered they can charge more for fat books than for thin books.

A few extra ounces also help the students build strong back muscles. :sarcasm:
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 04:45 PM
Response to Reply #32
41. Are you talking about ISBN-13?
How is that going to kill the used book market? And if I am misunderstanding you, my apologies.

Also, nowadays (meaning in the past two seasons) each new edition is rarely longer than the previous one; at least that has been my mandate at two separate publishers. Spine heft is not a factor in non-trade publishing, since we are not selling books based on looks on the bookshelf.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 05:35 PM
Response to Reply #41
46. Both ISBN-13 and ISBN-10 are different for a new edition,
are they not? Some textbooks have one of each. The new ISBNs signify that the old book is a different book - not the right book for the class. Students won't buy it unless the instructor says it's okay to do so. In a large, elementary class (where the big bucks are), instructors are unlikely to do anything that would make their own job more difficult, like dealing with various editions of the textbook. Also, many students try to buy their books early (while the lines are short, and before the supply runs out), which means they haven't even met the instructor and don't know whether an older edition is okay.

Spine heft - is that what they call it? Maybe the spine heft peaked a few years ago, and I wasn't paying attention. I stand corrected - at least concerning the publishers you worked for.

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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:36 PM
Response to Reply #46
51. Not as you describe it
The final check digit will differ between the two, because the ISBN-13 number has three additional numbers in the sequence, but the same edition of a book has both -10 and -13 assigned. I am not exactly sure when the overlapping ISBNs will be phased out; probably in a season or two. This is happening for trade books as well, fyi.

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Pierre.Suave Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 11:19 AM
Response to Original message
30. Want to be really shocked
buy books for Med School. I think that in itself is a test to see if you really belong there or not.
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sir_captain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 02:35 PM
Response to Reply #30
36. You are so right
It actually boggles the mind
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Pierre.Suave Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 03:10 PM
Response to Reply #36
38. Yes
yes it does.
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sir_captain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 02:36 PM
Response to Original message
37. I'm over $2000 this semester so far
and about to fork over another $1000 or so for some equipment I need.

Med school textbooks are even more expensive, and you need about a billion of them. It's horrible.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 04:57 PM
Response to Reply #37
44. So - instead of going to med school to get rich,
you have to be rich to go to med school? ;-)

What sort of equipment? Microscope? Things to look at eyes and ears with?
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sir_captain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 05:28 PM
Response to Reply #44
45. Haha....i wish
School is paid for with the $260,000 I took out in federal loans (I estimate it'll come to about half a million including interest...fun fun).

The equipment is pretty standard stuff--stethoscopes, otoscopes, opthalmoscopes, etc--but they all come from medical supply companies, and let's just say there isn't a whole lot of competition.
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Clintonista2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 04:38 PM
Response to Original message
40. I love the profs who make you buy their book
Then you end up not using it the entire year.
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BreweryYardRat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 04:48 PM
Response to Original message
42. Buy used from Amazon or ABE-books, dude!
I've paid maybe $150 for EVERYTHING, and I'm taking 5 classes with about 12 textbooks.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:07 PM
Response to Reply #42
49. That is a good strategy,
provided there are any used copies available.

Other sites I have used are amazon.co.uk and Best Book Buys.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 04:51 PM
Response to Original message
43. It really isn't the bookstores fault
I've worked in both retail and academic bookstores, and the markup on that end is very, very low. It isn't the bookstores ripping you off, it's the profs and publishers printing bogus "new editions" every year, etc.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:01 PM
Response to Reply #43
47. It depends on the bookstore.
At some schools, the campus bookstore intends to make money off textbooks. Their ads confuse loyalty to the store with loyalty to the school. Some of the profits from the bookstore may be used to subsidize the athletic program, as if that were a worthy cause.

At other schools, the bookstore posts ISBNs online, so students can shop around more easily.

Where textbooks are bundled, you know the bookstore is part of the problem.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 11:35 AM
Response to Reply #47
105. I severely doubt that ANY school bookstore uses their MINIMAL profits to subsidize athletics
In fact, at University of Virginia, where I worked, all of the "profits" from the bookstore went into a fund to help financially-disadvantaged students.

At some schools, like UNCG, they privatized the bookstore, because of problems with people taking kickbacks. Colleges do not want to rip off their students on books. Blame the publishers, but not the college.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 03:18 PM
Response to Reply #105
129. You'd be surprised.
Just about anything you can imagine has been done by the bookstore on some campus. The variety of arrangements involving bookstores boggles the mind. It is really hard to generalize about them.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 04:44 PM
Response to Reply #129
131. Sorry, but I really think that since
my entire career has revolved around books: retail, academic, and corporate, I'm more aware of how things are run, than a disgruntled student.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 07:18 PM
Response to Reply #131
135. Why the prejudice against students?
Disgruntled or otherwise, being a student does not make me suddenly forget everything I knew before I enrolled. I may not wear a suit and tie, but I still take showers just as often as I did when I had a full time job. Now all of a sudden people make all kinds of assumptions about me, merely because I have signed up for a class somewhere. Does that make me a lower form of life?

Here's a suggestion. Try replacing the word "student" with your favorite minority group, and see what your post looks like.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 08:09 PM
Response to Reply #135
137. I've worked with college-aged students for the majority of my working life
And I love working with students.

Just admit you're wrong. You've gotten viewpoints from a few people who work in different parts of academia. We're coming from different angles, but the common theme is: it's not the bookstore's fault.

Textbooks are absurdly expensive, I know. However, it is NOT the fault of the bookstore.

And telling me to replace "student" with some other minority is just asinine.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 09:33 PM
Response to Reply #137
142. I have news for you.
Not all college students are between 18 and 22 years old. Some of us are much older and have had a variety of careers. Some of us know things you don't know, even about books and bookstores.

No, the common theme in this thread is not that "it's not the bookstore's fault". Only you keep singing that song. You overgeneralize about bookstores and about this thread.

Too bad you wouldn't try my suggestion. It might teach you something about yourself.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 09:36 PM
Response to Reply #142
143. *yawn*
I'm certainly aware of non-traditional students and that was a nice attempted put-down.

Personally, I think you couldn't care less about this, but are just looking for a flamewar.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 07:44 PM
Response to Reply #105
136. This example should resolve your doubt.
"Welcome to the University of Saskatchewan Bookstore's website! The Bookstore is owned and operated by the University of Saskatchewan where profits benefit the entire campus by supporting student bursaries, facility renovations and upgrades, as well as the highly respected Huskie Athletics program."

For more information, browse http://www.usask.ca/consumer_services/bookstore/aboutus...
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 08:17 PM
Response to Reply #136
138. Firstly, I don't know anything about the Canadian university system
I've only worked in American universities.

There's also a huge difference between actually subsidizing the athletics program and merely giving some money towards it. U of Saskatchewan is not giving all their profits to sports, but they're also using it to renovate the campus AND provide financial aid to needy students. There's nothing wrong with that.

Also, aside from sports like football and basketball, sports teams are hugely expensive to the college, because they don't turn a profit. Some sports, like crew and fencing, are expensive and don't draw crowds. The crew team at UVA would hold fundraisers all the time, not because they wanted to get rich, but because it's the ONLY way they would get to play the sport they love.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 08:50 PM
Response to Reply #138
140. There's a lot you don't know.
For example, you don't know when you have lost an argument.

Try thinking before you post.

You haven't a leg to stand on. Just admit you were wrong.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 09:26 PM
Response to Reply #140
141. Oh brother
If you know so much, then what's your experience, other than being overcharged for books?
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 09:57 PM
Response to Reply #141
144. It's interesting that you would ask.
You didn't wonder about that earlier, when you classified me as a "disgruntled student". You were convinced then that I couldn't possibly know as much as you do about books etc. Now you seem to be more open minded.

Unfortunately, since I value my privacy, I tend not to reveal much about myself on the internet. For the purposes of this discussion, the following will have to suffice: I read and study a lot; I know my way around bookstores, libraries, and the internet; I have published scholarly papers in peer-reviewed journals; I have worked in industry; and I have done some teaching.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 10:35 PM
Response to Reply #144
146. Oh boy
High school literary journals are "peer-reviewed journals."

Although, it wasn't really a discussion, was it?
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YellowRubberDuckie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:05 PM
Response to Original message
48. I put all my books on reserve...
They'd hold them for a week after classes started. I'd go to class, see if I was actually going to need the text, then I'd go back and buy only what I needed. I pulled As and Bs in several courses with no text books.
Duckie
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evlbstrd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 06:19 PM
Response to Original message
50. Wow!
I've experienced with my daughters' books.
I went to art school. The Humanities profs would select readily available paperback titles, e.g, "I, Claudius" for Western Civ I. They knew what artists' materials cost. And lack of materials was never an acceptable excuse.
It can't compare to med school, though.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:49 PM
Response to Reply #50
54. Everything medical is EXPEN$IVE.
A medical student doesn't starve, but he probably will never be able to pay off his loan if something goes wrong with his career. It sounds pretty scary.

Robert Graves's I Claudius and Claudius the God are very readable and were made into a great TV series. Graves follows Suetonius's version of history. Livia was especially memorable in the TV series.

Another good classical read is the "Roma sub rosa" series by Steven Saylor.
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Manifestor_of_Light Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 08:55 PM
Response to Reply #54
57. I, Claudius was a great series on PBS.
On Monsterpiece Theater (what Cookie Monster called it).

Livia was Peter O'Toole's real life wife.

John Hurt was Caligula and Derek Jacobi was Claudius, who pretended to be slow and had a speech impediment so they wouldn't kill him.

Also, Magenta from Rocky Horror (Patricia Quinn) was in it too.

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JVS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 09:26 PM
Response to Original message
61. I think it is ridiculous that people are willing to shell out thousands of dollars a semester just..
to be there, but then cry like babies when they have to pay for the books that cost just a fraction of that. I guess it shows that they really do care more about the name on a degree than on the content of the courses. Flame away.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 11:00 PM
Response to Reply #61
78. What bothers me isn't the cost of the books themselves
I'm willing to pay for quality material for my courses, even if it's more expensive (caveat, I'm a humanities student, so I don't purchase too many textbooks). But the college bookstore racket is beyond ridiculous. All the bookstores on my campus give you a grand total of ONE WEEK to return books for a refund - after that, you're stuck with them unless you want to "sell them back" for a fraction of what you paid for them. If you decide to drop a class after one week - and it usually takes a couple of weeks to get the feel of your classes, review the syllabus, and ascertain the professor's personality - you are stuck with a bunch of worthless books you paid a hundred or so dollars for, and the bookstores refuse to refund your money. It's a scam.
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BuddhaGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 10:32 PM
Response to Original message
71. man, that sucks! I thought it was bad when I was in school :-(
CSULB graduate here :hi:
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Fading Captain Donating Member (895 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-06-07 11:58 PM
Response to Original message
80. College students
are keeping the American book manufacturing business alive.


Sad. But true.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 10:07 PM
Response to Reply #80
145. ROFL!!
No they are not, I assure you.
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:22 AM
Response to Original message
87. for an organic chem text just buy an older edition and take responsibility...
Edited on Fri Sep-07-07 01:25 AM by mike_c
...for digging out the material you need from different chapters, page numbers, or whatever.

I teach university biology courses-- over the years I've taught smaller courses in my specialty, like entomology and field ecology, and many large lecture courses, like general biology, general ecology, and general zoology. I ALWAYS tell students the same thing about textbooks:

You will more than likely need access to a textbook to read about the material I'll be expecting you to know during our class discussions. I'll try to make accessing that information easier for you by adopting an "official" course text that I have screened. It covers the topics you need to read, and I can point you to the precise pages that cover them.

That said, new books are expensive and older editions are often adequate. There are lots of other fine alternative general biology texts available too. Some folks might simply prefer another book. That's OK with me, as long as you take full responsibility for cross referencing topics on different page numbers, in different chapters, and so on, and for seeking your own access to any updated material that might be missing from older editions or other texts. My textbook recommendation is a convenience, not a requirement. Like all other aspects of your college education, my recommendation represents a learning opportunity that you can choose to accept, not accept, or modify for any reasons you like.


edit: spelling, etc.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:38 AM
Response to Reply #87
88. How many of your students do the extra work
of searching for the info? That sounds great if it works...
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:52 AM
Response to Reply #88
91. I have no idea....
I don't look over folks' shoulders after I've given them the syllabus.

In most cases it's not a lot of extra work, frankly. The simplest solution is to stay tuned to what is going on in class, in the syllabus, and in study groups-- it pretty quickly becomes apparent if an older or other text is missing information, and motivated students can get that info from any number of sources, including other students in the class. The biggest difference-- as long as the edition or text they're using is recent-- is finding the information on different page numbers, and that's not much of a chore. I mean, if I assign a reading on, say, control of gene transcription in prokaryotes, pg. 455-462 in The Text, it's usually not too difficult to find the same topic in Another Text or a different edition using the TOC or the index.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 06:20 PM
Response to Reply #91
98. What you are suggesting doesn't sound too difficult
for a student who already knows the subject so well that the class is a mere formality. It sounds impossible for the average student. Just my humble opinion.
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 10:31 PM
Response to Reply #98
99. well see, that illustrates a general truism that will be with you...
...throughout your professional life: choices bring increased responsibilities.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 11:05 PM
Response to Reply #99
100. Please don't patronize me
by talking about my responsibilities or my professional life, about which you know nothing. If you are making a point about students in general, then keep it general.
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:56 AM
Response to Reply #100
101. don't be so bloody sensitive....
It's a GENERAL statement-- it affects my professional life as much as yours. If we want choices, we need to take responsibility for how we use those choices. In the context of this discussion, folks who want textbook choices need to stop whining about the extra work those choices burden them with and get on with the job at hand-- or they should simply use the text that some prof has read for them and picked out all the relevant bits to highlight in the syllabus so they won't have to do the extra work themselves.

Your response, suggesting that doing that sounds like something only an outstanding student could be capable of-- that taking responsibility for transposing page numbers sounds a bit too much for an average student-- struck me as whiny. And who the HELL wants to be an average student, anyway? The road to mediocrity is paved with average students.

I am not patronizing you-- I'm speaking to you plainly. I suggested a possible course of action that might help you with the dilemma you introduced in the OP. You clearly were not impressed by the advice. Perhaps complaining about the price of college textbooks is more edifying than seeking a solution to the problem?

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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:49 PM
Response to Reply #101
115. Mike, I always follow your posts with interest and generally agree BUT
Edited on Sat Sep-08-07 12:49 PM by FarceOfNature
this whole meme about responsibility of choices etc. ignores the fact that if we put the principle into practice every moment of our academic lives as educators, we would lose our jobs. Administrations don't like professors who fail a lot of students, and this is what it would come down to if we expected students to be 100% responsible for everything. I mean, we might as well just not even come in to explain the material; they should be able to understand the texts and if they can't they don't belong in higher education, no? However I am speaking as an untenured PhD student responsible for teaching full sections. I have NO protection if students continuously filed grievances about me not being helpful; we live and die at this University at the hand of student evaluations. And let's be honest here...who is teaching most of these classes? Fully protected, tenured professors? Or cheap and available PhD students? If I have to do a little handholding to keep students interested in the material and confident in their abilities, all the while being liked in general and not in danger of losing my job, I'll do it.
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 01:22 PM
Response to Reply #115
118. I hear you....
Edited on Sat Sep-08-07 01:38 PM by mike_c
Ironically, I get very good evaluations from my students-- perhaps because I do hold their hands a lot when they ask for it.

I've been teaching university science courses for about 15 years or so, and over the years my thinking about ideas like responsibility for teaching and learning have changed a lot-- I hope in a positive response to experience rather than a cynical one, LOL. Most important, I've come to genuinely abhor the standard lecture model for instruction. It was the best choice-- the only real choice-- in the early years of higher ed when few people participated and when the professor was generally the ONLY source of information about a given topic.

Students and professors live in a very different world today, and that model has too often become an excuse for student disengagement and intellectual laziness on the instructor's side of the podium. I'm sad to say that 90 percent of my colleagues probably rely on it more-or-less completely.

I'm currently working on different paradigms in my own classes. I assign readings from numerous sources, including online presentations I'm putting together (take a look at http://learn.humboldt.edu/course/view.php?id=1776 for an example-- login as a guest), practical activities, etc., then use class time for collaboration and discussion rather than lecturing, which I absolutely do not do except under extraordinary circumstances. In other words, I accept responsibility for providing opportunities and resources, but my students must accept responsibility for what they do-- or don't do-- with those opportunities. Where they find their resources is immaterial to me-- that's the point I was trying to make to the OP-- I provide them access to resources I've vetted and referenced for them, but I'd argue that seeking their own resources is intellectually more valuable. Most probably do it to save money at the bookstore, but in the end they become more active participants in their own educations, and that's a good thing, IMO.

It seems to be working pretty well, although I'm still struggling a bit with evaluating outcomes. At any rate, my classes always fill quickly, so students evidently DO appreciate greater opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning, despite the reluctance the OP expressed.

I also hear your comments about academic job security-- I'm challenging the very definition of "excellence in teaching" that generally holds sway at my institution, where the "great lecture" is the epitome of success, but I'm tenured and protected.
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:42 PM
Response to Reply #98
114. having taught sections of 120 students and allowing former editions..
IF YOU DO NOT SPECIFICALLY TELL THEM BEFORE HAND, PREFERABLY WITH IT IN BOLD IN THE SYLLABUS, THE SPECIFIC DIFFERENCES AND CHANGES IN PAGE NUMBERS FROM EDITION TO EDITION YOU WILL NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER GET AN END TO THE FRANTIC LAST MINUTE EMAILS FROM CONFUSED FRESHMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *caps intentional* But yeah, unless I held their hands through the process of using different editions, I would NEVER expect them to find the content on their own. This is NOT stupidity; from what I've seen it's lack of familiarity with terminology we learn to take for granted and, perhaps more so, lack of confidence. Even when they're correct, and this is more times than not, they will always email to double check if you let them loose to fend for themselves.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 01:18 PM
Response to Reply #114
117. Are you familiar with
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:13 PM
Response to Reply #117
121. HA! yeah thanks for reminding me of that :D
:rofl:
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 03:37 PM
Response to Reply #114
130. Very well put.
That is very much in line with my experience, formerly as a TA, and now as a retired "senior" student and occasional tutor.

In addition to the problems you mentioned, many students don't know how to use indexes and tables of contents of their books. This may come as a shock to some instructors.
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Inchworm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 01:49 AM
Response to Original message
90. ASU has a book loan system
ASU = Appalachian State University

I don't know if its because it's a teaching college or what but when you add it up it saves sooo much money.

I'd be there now if it wasn't for my bad credit :banghead:

:hi:
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NC_Nurse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 08:02 AM
Response to Reply #90
94. My daughter rented a lot of her books in the past there.
This year she had to buy all of them. They didn't have them available.
She was pretty bummed. I think it was over $700 total, maybe more.
Great school, though. And a great deal. I hope you're able to go at some point. :hi:
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NJCher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 02:03 AM
Response to Original message
92. talk to the prof if you think the hook prices are too high
Thanks to BookLover for knowledgeable posts from the inside.

I think much of this depends on the professor (and I am speaking as one who has been teaching for 15 years). If you really can't afford part of it or even if you just think it's a rip-off, talk to the professor and tell them the problem! You might be surprised at what the person says. All professors were once (probably short-of-cash) graduate students and undergrads, too.

I deliberately shop out books that sell for a nominal price. Of course I have to like it and think it will do the job, but price is a major consideration in what books I choose.

I think the update thing is a scam designed to keep the students off the used book market. I say that because the updates I've seen are not all that pertinent. And fact of the matter is, an addendum could be published on the Internet and be far more timely, anyway.

On the first day of class, I tell my students that an older edition is all right with me. That is because I'm familiar with the updates and I don't consider any of them to be that crucial to what I want the student to get out of the text. I will work with any student who needs to cut the cost of the text.

I give my students 10 days to get the text online. Even if it comes a little later than that, I'll still work with them.

Many textbooks are lavish productions. They're nice, but it doesn't have to be that way. Today with the Internet, there are so many multimedia resources with which to teach.

Anyway--if you walk away from this post with one thing, it should be that you should talk to the prof about the book cost. They just might be sympathetic and work with you on a solution.






Cher
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 12:56 PM
Response to Reply #92
95. That's a good idea.
For one thing, a brief conversation will show whether the instructor knows or cares about textbook prices. Some instructors, like some students, are clueless about this. Some know all about it but don't give a shit. In my experience, most instructors are knowledgeable and do care about textbook prices. Especially in advanced classes, which tend to be small, the instructors will usually try to help students avoid the ripoff.
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NJCher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 02:14 PM
Response to Reply #95
96. thanks for posting this thread
I learned a lot and I've been in academia for awhile. The cost of textbooks is a significant part of the cost of higher education. It would be so worthwhile for people concerned with keeping the cost of higher ed down to come together and explore alternatives.

I'd really like to know what compensation is for professors who write textbooks. That and whether there are organizations whose objective is keeping the cost of higher ed reasonable are two areas I intend to research.



Cher
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-07-07 03:30 PM
Response to Reply #96
97. You're quite welcome
Good luck on your new research projects. They both sound worthwhile.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:17 AM
Response to Reply #96
102. The standard compensation ranges between
a 9-12% royalty.
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:28 PM
Response to Reply #102
111. depends...
Edited on Sat Sep-08-07 12:29 PM by FarceOfNature
if you are under contract with an established textbook publisher that profit margin is accurate. In many ways this route is easier and less competitive to get the thing in print but it's more financially lucrative and academically prestigious to publish under University presses or 3rd party independent presses although the process of peer review is more vigorous. From what I've seen, textbook companies commonly ask scholars (at least in my field) to write the books more often than scholars approach THEM...
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 01:31 PM
Response to Reply #111
120. UPresses are more profitable to the author?
That's a surprise to me - I've seen those operations and they always seem incredibly shorestring, FWIW.
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:23 PM
Response to Reply #120
123. again, depends...
but I'm a biased sample and nobody in my field makes ANY big money, except those who luck out on fat NSF grants which are rare in cultural anthropology. At my old school, they released under UAlbany Press a very successful book on Mesoamerica. That was the most action anyone had seen. It all depends on the success of the book, which again is contingent upon how many profs agree to use the book in their classes, except in the rare event that the gen pop picks up on the books. Then again, showstring budgets aside (and I don't think anyone can call Princeton "shoestring BTW) the profit margins ARE better and more lucrative for successful books; I guess textbook publishers wouldn't publish anything they wouldn't expect to reach a profitable level but the margins are proportionately smaller.
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candycom Donating Member (36 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 09:20 AM
Response to Original message
103. OMG
Its infuriating! Last semester I was taking this paticular math class which I later ended up dropping. The book was 97 used and 130 new, of course i had a new one and they wouldnt buy it back, they said that they already had all they needed for the fall semester, (this semester), so okay, I think, I'll just keep it and take the class next semester anyway, well a friend of mine is in the same class and guess what? They were out of books! So she waited a week for her math book that she had to buy new at 130 plus payed an extra 20 bucks for over night shipping. When the book finally came in the total cost was 170 dollars! And we cant sell these back ever because for spring semester they are using a new edition! Conveniant, right? :mad:
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 12:21 PM
Response to Original message
110. A LOT of this is ALSO lazy Profs/overworked TA/GAs
Edited on Sat Sep-08-07 12:24 PM by FarceOfNature
I taught a huge section of Intro to Cultural Anthropology at a gigantic state school, and I had an average of 120 students. Teaching was in addition to Intensive Arabic classes I tool EVERY DAY at 8am and 3 PhD level seminar classes. Factor in my master annotated bib my adviser insisted I keep constantly updated as well as my dissertation proposal in anticipation of my comps, office hours for the little brats, "voluntary" visiting lectures to attend, and therapeutic happy hours. My first semester teaching, they just kinda tossed us in the deep end and saw who could survive; those who didn't got comfy but less prestigious gigs assisting full profs in their classes.

Anywho, the Textbook Company Whores (no offense Book Lover)would come in around ordering time and put out full buffet spreads for us, beer included! and show us their wares. Some of these "packets" included EVERYTHING-power point lectures, summaries to hand out to the class, critical thinking questions, video snippets, EXAMS. Of course I thought they were horrible, but they wouldn't exist if people didn't use them. I never heard of a PhD student being that lazy or passing up an opportunity to improve upon and find fault in a textbook; I used to give EC if students could find biased or unfair statements and write a reasoned 1 page argument-THAT'S how bad some of these texts were.

I finally honed my teaching style to include a core ethnography which changed every semester because I myself would get bored going over the same shit, and a textbook that was designed by the Marxist sympathizer author to be cheap, bare bones, and highly useful as a core for the instructor to supplement. I would occasionally assign a newspaper article or post articles online for students. Still, this book ran $45 and the ethnography around $15 but I allowed previous additions of both. Looking at the fat, sleek and glossy $250 "packaged texts" with the premade everything, it would be impossible to allow for any former editions or extra articles since the exam questions were verbatim out of the texts. Funny how freshman turn into brilliant little critical thinkers when they are challenging the wording, syntax, or factuality of an exam question :eyes:
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 01:28 PM
Response to Reply #110
119. Oh, I've been there *shudder*
First time I had responsibility for my own section (intro human evolution and prehistory) I was taking four graduate classes, at least one of which had a lab component, AND trying to get a dissertation proposal together, AND sitting in on a couple of classes which didn't fit my schedule but which it wouldn't have been cool to completely ignore. Oh, and there was also the presentation I was working up for one of the professional meetings...I'm amazed I made it out of that year alive. (I've since told TPTB at my department that they shouldn't allow people to take four classes while teaching their own section, but I doubt enough people have even tried it for them to bother with a policy change).

Having said that, I would have *loved* it if the text publishers had done a "book fair" like you describe -- not for the crappy add-ons, but just for the opportunity to actually look at the various texts. I found the process of obtaining evaluation copies to be VERY hit-or-miss, even if I showed up in person at the book exhibit at the meetings: sometimes I'd mistakenly be sent two or three copies of a text, sometimes I'd ask four times and get nothing. The publishers pretty much ignored us, though -- and we're talking a big state university here!

Those "packets" really annoy me, too; I always wonder how much cheaper the books would be if we weren't subsidizing the development of all that rubbish. The only thing I've found even remotely useful are the powerpoints -- not to actually use them as-is, but sometimes they include copies of illustrations from the text, which can be nice if I want to specifically talk about one of them in class. Of course, if it would drop the price of the text, I'm more than happy to scan those illustrations myself!
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:27 PM
Response to Reply #119
124. hehehe. that's actually our BEST way of making money :D
we became extremely adept at finding out how to get evaluation copies and then provided they weren't teacher editions (and even THEN sometimes we'd throw caution to the wind anyway) hock those puppies back to the bookstore. Selfish? Definitely. Unethical? Maybe. Drives up the price of texts? Unlikely; I doubt we were a large enough group to impact anything. But hey, when you're living on a "prestigious" fellowship of $20,000 a year, you'll do what you can to make some scratch.
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Piltdown13 Donating Member (829 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #124
127. Around here, you don't even have to go to the bookstore
Once a semester, I've been visited by a rep from some company wanting to know if I have any textbook copies I'd like to get rid of! (The answer is always "no," as I like to hold onto old copies to hand out to students in my upper-level classes who have somehow slipped by the registrar without the prerequisites.)

Wow, a $20k fellowship in anthropology! In real terms, it's not much, I know, but still...My fellowships were always $12-$14k, except for the one year I had an externally-funded fellowship that paid the princely sum of $20k. (And thank goodness it did, because I had research expenses beyond what could be covered by the research grant I got -- I found out the hard way you have to overstate your budget, because they always cut you back about 20% from what you requested. I was honest, and ended up with insufficient funds.) Of course, I was in one of the "flyover states," and a poor one at that, so lower cost of living may have something to do with it. And I was one of the lucky ones; most grad students in my department were totally dependent on loans.
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tigereye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 02:44 PM
Response to Reply #110
125. I have a lot of friends who have PHDs in Anthropology and this sounds so
familiar. I have heard some wild stories from them about grad school and univ. teaching jobs. Good for you for being so open about information and really challenging your students.
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Runcible Spoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 08:19 PM
Response to Reply #125
139. :D ha yeah we're a pretty masochistic breed...
try just TRY learning a non-Romance/non-Latinate/non-Germanic language at age 27 when you've been hardwired into a salty little sarcasm machine by almost a decade of post-modern literary theory and its like. Hehehe I could map entire paragraphs of syntax in Arabic better than I could write 2 simple sentences in "mood 3" (something my teacher used to explain the corresponding present tense but with some emotional aspect to it, I DUNNO :crazy:).

I wonder what your anthro PhD friends are up to now. Me, I took a year off after 2 years of PhD post-MA to live in Buenos Aires with my fiance. Castellano Spanish is my new enemy; apparently fieldwork in rural Guatemala might as well have been in Klingon for all the good it did my Spanish speaking in Argentina :rofl:
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moc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 03:02 PM
Response to Original message
128. I don't have a required textbook in the course I teach (graduate level
Edited on Sat Sep-08-07 03:03 PM by moc
course in child/adolescent development).

All of the required readings are from the peer-reviewed literature. I load pdf copies of the papers onto the course website where students can download and print for free (save the cost of ink/paper).

I have a couple of recommended books if students are interested. Both are less than $50, and one can be purchased by the chapter at $2.10 apiece.

At the graduate level, most textbooks aren't that useful.
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Nikia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-08-07 06:08 PM
Response to Original message
134. Books prices were contributing factors to my choice of electives
I did not choose to take classes with required (no way to get the information anywhere else) texts that cost over $70 if I could help it.
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Lionel Mandrake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-09-07 12:01 AM
Response to Reply #134
147. Same here.
I wonder how many other students take the prices of textbooks into account when choosing classes.
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