1. Wait until classes start to buy textbooks. You want to have a chance to talk to your actual professor and hear what they say about the textbook and/or look at the syllabus to determine what, if any, readings are actually required from the textbook. In many cases, textbooks are chosen at a departmental level, so some professors may use them sparingly or not at all.
2. If you determine that the textbook is probably needed for you to finish the course, and there is an older edition available less than 5 years old, then buy the older edition. It will be available online on eBay, Amazon, etc. for a much cheaper price than the most current edition. In most cases, the reading content will be very similar, if not identical. Problems sets might change, but if you are assigned them, you can ask another student to take a look at their textbook, or borrow one from the school library. I started doing this my last couple of years at college, and never had any issues.
3. If you do buy a textbook, read it in its entirety. Remember that you are taking classes to learn, not to blindly follow a course syllabus. So read your textbook - all of it - even the parts that aren't assigned.
Walled gardens encroaching on education.
Can you mention what system it is? There's a few thousand entrepreneurs on this site that might be interested in disrupting broken business models like that one.
There exist free alternatives at least for math but it's kind of a MS-office vs libreoffice situation.
I see it's available for $US6.61 used on Amazon now...
edit: had the price about $50 too high.
And by "they" you meant the faculty (professors etc) or college administration or some other office office? Just curious about it. I am from India and there are no fixed text books here (at least the colleges I know about - central Govt. funded). There are syllabi and you are free to study the course with anything you want - books, or no books. My college library solved textbook problem for almost 40% students and rest were solved by hands-me-downs from seniors, 2nd hand book stores (some of them have very capable xerox machines too), and then there's "online".
On a side note, I saw a video of some professor ticked off that students got a hold of a test battery from a publisher. This "get all the questions from the publisher" makes me think these folks don't want to put any effort into the class. What is the difference between a prestigious university and a community college given that level of effort?
The tuition bill.
> The whole industry is a racket, designed to exploit kids in a situtation where they have no choice.
True. But your previous sentence does not follow from this. The bad actions of others do not justify your own bad actions, no matter how tempting it becomes to think otherwise.
Dunno. 15 years ago all the Ivy League libraries campaigned against Elsevier's pricing and achieved precisely nothing. We had to wait for Scihub.
Textbook publishers aren't really hurt by this as much as the legitimate textbook purchasers (your fellow students).
The solution isn't to pirate/steal the content. It's to vote with your feet before you go to a post-secondary that chooses expensive copyrighted books when there are free or very affordable alternatives.
Besides, voting with your dollars is a fallacy.
>Besides, voting with your dollars is a fallacy.
in an oligopoly such as education where the purchase and sale of goods/services is subsidized then the power of voting with your dollars is diminished. the core concept is not a fallacy, and is actually a good metaphor for market action.
the problem is that 18 y/o young adults are able to borrow far more money than they ought to be able to, creating a market of naive buyers with extraordinary buying power. its no surprise that some of them buy things like comparative literature or gender studies degrees.
>voting with your dollars is a fallacy
What do you mean by that? Are you suggesting that companies will survive without any customers buying their product?
The only situation in which voting with your wallet doesn't work is when you have no choice. In this situation, the students do have the choice to pirate the books, buy used books, or bite the bullet and buy the book.
Definitly not true. Many classes require entering a code just to submit homework
This was all the rage when I was in school, especially since our bookstore sold at retail price (or about 80% for a used copy) and _generously offered_ to buy the books back at the end of the semester for 3-10% of list price. College bookstores are a racket.
There are already business models that have started to chip away at this type of racket. Chegg and Amazon rentals are decent examples.
Sadly I'm unimpressed with the progress it has made. I'm convinced replacing expensive formally published textbooks with cheaper or freeware digital books is superior. The problem is with department deans and professors that hawk their own books in their courses.
After studying for a semester in Canada with textbooks, I did not see any added benefit to using textbooks.
In my experience I did get a couple of professors that weren't pleased when I didn't get the book(s).
One frustrating thing was professors assigning their own books. There were a couple of cases where much of the class was directly related to it, but otherwise it was for vanity/$$$.
Textbook companies are pushing electronic books hard. They say that they have studies showing students learn more because it is interactive and such. I am skeptical though and think it is mostly so they can sell a license to the material and kill off used book sales. Sure it costs less but there is no way to make any money off of selling it and some companies only allow you to access it for a year or so and so even if you wanted to access it later in life you can't (I think there are some that offer lifetime access but that is really lifetime of the software platform).
The real cost savings is Open Educational Resources (OER). Basically Creative Commons books that are free for students and educators with no drm. https://campustechnology.com/articles/2014/07/02/16-oer-site...
I don't know if this passage was meant to fool me but it fooled me: By one estimate, college students nationwide spent $701 each year on textbooks in 2008. By 2017 that cost dropped by more than $100. - Which I initially read as "to $100", which, unlike a $100 drop, is impressive.
$100 drop is a speed bump and if they can only manage such a speed bump, the whole thing is like a press release.
Also you're not taking into account the fact that inflation alone should have increased costs by roughly $100 since 2008. But instead there's a net decrease.
Most people would come out farther ahead buying on Amazon and then selling back after the semester. Rather than rent.
If their calculations do not include selling the book back, my guess is students are actually spending less up front but spending more overall.
The publishers got too greedy. Their websites all suck. Their lectures are generally terrible. Their books sneak in ads. There is nothing user friendly about that industry. I hope it withers and dies and gets replaced by something more palatable.
Edit: Thanks for the down votes for expressing thanks. Would expect nothing less.
I wish there was a way to both downvote and anonymously provide feedback.
With the thread of retribution downvotes I can understand not wanting to both downvote and publicly say you did so, but it would be nice to have a way of saying what it is you objected to.
I also wonder if websites could then use that data to fight astroturfing (e.g., if an account consistently downvotes without providing feedback does that indicate a higher likelihood that the account is being used to influence the site without trying to contribute to and improve it?, etc)
One of my professors specifically told us to get an older version of the textbook used, presumably to save us money. I was able to get it for ~$10 used on Amazon instead of $150 and I'm pretty sure the content was identical.
http://www.stitz-zeager.com open source pre-calculus
The reason for this is piracy. People save money pirating books and it also provides competition to what was a formerly the extortionist monopolistic practices of publishers.
But that seems to be mostly because courses require very specific books, which certainly could be changed. My experience in Germany was very different, for almost all courses there were no required textbooks, only recommended ones. You were free to buy them, don't buy them, buy different ones or rent books from the library. And the prices are much lower, the most expensive textbook I bought was 80 EUR.
They sometimes recommended books for us, that were sold for 30-40 € in any library.
That's because all parts of the world that aren't the US or Canada get the international edition of textbooks, which is much cheaper and more often than not page-for-page exactly the same.
This isn't only the case for books, by the way. I've heard stories of North American students having to pay over 50 or even 100 USD for MyMathLab for a single course. On the other hand, at my European university, a MyMathLab code is 15 EUR.
BTW, the cheaper prices here in Europe don't only apply to the original English editions, but also to translations. Quick checkup on Amazon.com vs. Amazon.de:
Begon, Ecology, 4th edition: 86.73$ vs. 53.99€ (= 67.39$) -> original English edition
Campbell Biology, 10th edition: 246.62$ vs. 99.95€ (= 124.75$) -> German translation
Apparently, they do. I suppose competition might be healthier here: if a lot of students were to complain to a lecturer that the textbook for his course was prohibitively expensive, they would probably look into possible alternatives.
My community college did this 25 years ago. Though they "sold" us used books at a huge discount, and then paid us a portion of that when we sold them back. In the end, it was basically a "rental" but if you screwed up the book, you didn't get as much for it.
The actual solution to all this is to have universities pay for books. They can shop more diligently, roll their own, use out of date books, go digital... Lots of options that are open to the college, but not the student.
When the decision maker is not the user, price systems fail.
Go online, find a cheap, used copy, and get that shipped to you. (Not all books are available like this, but many are)
The prices online are so good that the online-used-book industry basically killed the 'book' part of the campus bookstore.
$200 for spiral bound 1/2" thick pile of black and white paper that's "totally different" from the one my roommate bought last semester? Ugh.
Where the hell are all the universities' economists?!
If a university's compost was horribly buggy in some way, there would be overqualified ganderers all over it, out of curiosity if nothing else. The bookstore problem is even an interesting one, and a useful one to solve.
It may be more insidious than it seems too. Universities are (I assume) going to be changing the way they teach in the coming years of decades. The way schools use technology to teach is important, and doing a decent job at this is important. One approach to figuring it out (that I hear is well underway) is letting individual lecturers use stuff from the open market. Ie, prescribing to students. Ie, the same problem.
I actually think it's not a bad idea letting students buys stuff a la carte^, even bid for lab tutor time or pay for weekly exams. Universities do too much prescribing anyway, but at least if they prescribe they should pay. I think if economists need to prove their salt. Fix this and then we'll have a little more confidence in your idea about global insurance reform or whatnot.
^Obviously not in a way that just means students pay more or leverage wealth competitively.
Authoring textbooks. It's now in fashion to create campus-specific editions of textbooks (in partnership with some professor, of course) who then gets royalties from sales... to the students that they mandated purchase this specific book.
These textbook prices do matter! If you're paying 1k in textbook fees and 8k-9k in tuition, then those books are eating up a significant percentage of your total burn.
9k is not a made-up number, by the way. Public colleges and universities without active research programs have tuition in the ~9k range . Which is still a lot, but a student who works a part-time job and lives at home can get out with relatively little debt (or even no debt with a modest scholarship and impressive work ethic).
You don't have to go to Harvard or even the state flagship. And you definitely don't need to go to one of the many second-rate schools that charge Harvard prices for access to a much less prestigious network and in many cases inferior education.
If a student attends a school with an active research program and chooses not to leverage that expertise in order to level up their career prospects, then that student made a bad decision. Perhaps we should be doing more to shield people from bad life choices, or at least not enable those choices with easy access to huge piles of debt. But in most states, there do exist (more) reasonable options in the current market.
IMO we should be moving to self-published open source books, with hard copies sold in the 20-50 dollar price range and with all profits going to the actual author. The online auto-graded homework assignments are an unsolved problem for some courses, but that's nothing a sabbatical or two can't solve.
The useful part of a publisher is developmental editing (product) and copy editing (Q/A), so there is an opportunity for "lightweight" publishing companies that help expert authors produce the book—like self publishing, but you don't have to do the boring parts. I'm working in that space. We have two textbooks out: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0992001005/noBSmathphys and https://www.amazon.com/dp/0992001021/noBSLA
At what California state institutions is the in-state tuition anywhere near $50,000 (unless you mean for the entire degree program)?
These are different things.
If you want to compare total costs of college then do so. But if you're comparing tuition, then stick to that metric.
Luckily the internet gives so many options to combat this, but would still appreciate open source textbooks.
If the textbook is just a reference and not being used for exercises, then it worked most of the time.
For example, suppose your calculus class uses Apostol's "Calculus". You can buy the US edition, which is an utterly ridiculous $270 on Amazon at the moment, and that's just for volume 1! Volume 2 is similarly priced.
(It's particularly ridiculous because today's edition of Apostol is still the 2nd edition, from the 1960s. At least with those calculus books that they make gratuitous changes to each year to discourage use of used books, they can at least try to claim that the price keeps going up because they keep doing things to the book).
The international edition, which is exactly the same content as the US edition, but in paperback instead of hardback, and on thinner paper, is around $20  per volume from numerous small booksellers. There's even a couple that are Prime and fulfilled by Amazon.
(I've heard that for some textbooks, the US edition uses color and the international edition is only black & white. For Apostol the US edition is black & white so it does not matter, but if you are considering a book that is in color keep this in mind).
If Amazon does not have the international edition, try AbeBooks.com. It is far more likely that AbeBooks will have a seller with it than Amazon, actually.
Similar to AbeBooks.com is Biblio.com. Occasionally one will have a textbook that the other does not.
I'm pretty sure that the basic principles of Intermediate Accounting haven't changed for decades. Any recent changes are industry specific and you sort of pick up as you go along professionally.
That's especially unconscionable when it's subjects like basic physics, chemistry, and math. Why do we have to use the latest edition linear algebra textbook, when you can get older editions for pennies on the dollar? All they do is change up the pages and switch the problems out.
I'm staring at textbooks for next semester, Legal Ethics. Brand new book, 5th edition. $328. 3rd edition? $75.
Boondoggle isn't even the word.
Boondoggles are unintentional. This is working as intended.
> _work or activity that is wasteful or pointless
but gives the appearance of having value_
The verb version is "waste money or time on unnecessary or questionable projects."
Basically the project is useless and unnecessary.
For textbooks, things are working out very well indeed and just as intended for textbook companies and the professors who write the textbooks that are required for their own classes.
For instance, let's say you wanted to improve the educational quality of a university and you build a new chemistry lab that costs a lot of money. You're about 80% of the way through when you realize that the lab is never going to help education if you can't attract competent professors. Oops. That's an example of a boondoggle.
So what word would we use for charging 'new' costs for textbooks containing 'old' data, with the only substantive changes being an updated graphic (updated as in: a photo of a law office taken in 2017 whereas the third edition featured a photo taken in 1992), and some reworded paragraphs-where ultimately the core academic content remains the same?
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act happened in 2002 (1.5 decades ago) and Trump & the Republicans just made some major changes to the tax code (which accountants need to understand).
Moreover, even though Accounting is taught in college it's really job prep (like teaching Law to lawyers). You don't need to cover all the details in your first Accounting 101 class, but you gotta be current on the stuff you do cover.
Also - just to be clear on where I stand - I think that more than $50 for a textbook is outrageous. Personally, I think $20-30 should be more than enough.
So it seems like the issue is:
Given that we want to (and need to) update the books, how can we keep prices down?
Open Education Resources (OER), anyone?
Changes in the tax code and the SO act are pieces of litigation that may or may not affect you. SO in particular is less concerned with basic accounting and more systems of control, disclosure, and investigations of conflicts of interest. You only do that in positions of power, because you have to set up and enforce all those systems.
But for tax code changes, you need to figure out amortization schedules, accurate cost basis per unit sold and book reconciliation. Those things haven't really changed for decades, maybe hundreds of years.
The professors that use these systems like them because they don't have to grade anything. The departments like them because they don't have to pay graders and can have bigger classes. An the publishers LOVE them because students have no choice but to pay.
I'm not sure where the friction is that prevents this from happening? University presidents like to have fancy dinners with textbook publishing house CEOs?
The friction that prevents your plan from happening is that the professors won't do it for so cheap. There is a ton of money they can make under the current system.
I mean, how much editions of well established math book you could do? Every year new one.
Want cheaper prices? Cut those 2 out, put out more public bids for service, or gasp if you are a 23 campus university system maybe negotiate on behalf of all 23 campuses instead of 1 by 1. Microsoft gave umbrella rates for all of the CSU system, so why not ask publishers to do the same?
Politically it's easier to shift the burden to the students (and mandatory homework doesn't even count as tuition) than finding funding for the Loncapa maintenance man or the teaching assistant that helps grade the stuff.
What do US students and teachers think about openstax? I've made use of short excerpts of some chapters as extra content in my own teaching (UK, not university level)
Looking at the prices for accounting books on Amazon, there are two kinds - books for people who need to do accounting for a business, which sell for about $20, and textbooks, which sell for $100-$300. Most of the textbooks come from Wiley or McGraw-Hill.
1. Stop requiring the latest edition for a class. I strongly doubt that the science behind Physics 201 has changed in the past two years - you can probably teach to the 2008 edition of the textbook, instead of the 2018.
2. Stop requiring textbooks containing one-time digital codes.
Prohibit/censure teachers for 'requiring' books they wrote when they were never used in class.
Universities will do anything for the rankings.
The rise of Netflix has almost ended the piracy of movies, the same would happen for textbooks if this service was created.