AEIdeas

The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute

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Discussion: (12 comments)

  1. Seattle Sam

    There is another factor at work here. Unlike recreational books you are compelled by a powerful authority to buy particular textbooks or suffer a penalty. Sort of like Obamacare.

    1. Or, unlike recreational books, textbooks provide a value to the user other than recreation, and the value they provide has been increasing steadily over the years as the job market demands more knowledge specialists than before.

      Maybe ;)

      1. If that were the case students wouldn’t sell the textbooks back, but rather keep this “valuable resource” on hand.

  2. I still can’t believe this costs over $200, especially when there are many better books on the market. But that book is considered a classic, so I suspect it will be around for a few more decades.

    1. Citizen Buddy

      Ken, your link doesn’t work.

      1. Try this.

    2. What do you mean $200? I see there on that Amazon link that it costs $89 new, or $69 used.

      Did you guys forget that few people actually pay FULL PRICE for text books? ;)

      Now you can even rent many textbooks on Kindle. So much for this “evil textbook cartel”

  3. Question for Mark Perry – Do you use any of these alternative textbooks in your classrooms? What has been your experience with them?

  4. To boot I have seen stories that indicate the professors don’t always know what their textbook choices will cost students (it appears the publishers don’t always check). Of course one way to save at least a bit is to buy from the dreaded Amazon instead of the local bookstore. Professors could always check on Amazon before making a decision. An interesting question is what percentage of professors know the cost of their textbook selection.

  5. So you’re saying that college textbooks provide increasing levels of benefits to its customers than recreational books?

    Yep. Seems to make sense.

  6. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the ‘costs’ involved in producing and selling the traditional hardcopy textbooks. What is paid to the authors (For original and updated books.), actual publishing costs, marketing costs, distribution costs; and then how much goes to the publisher as profit for each book.

    As a general rule, the (specialized) textbooks and manuals a former company I worked for produced for their products and classes were sold at 100 times the actual printing costs. We engineers and the trainers wrote the books as a small part of our regular jobs. A book that cost $2.50 to print and bind would sell for $250.00. They used to provide copies with each machine sold, but that became a paid-for option, even for the CD versions.

    In this day and age, I absolutely hated lugging monstrous-sized textbooks around, either to class or when traveling for work. An electronic version, either on a tablet or laptop is more than adequate for ANY class I’ve ever taken. They can also be updated or corrected instantly when mistakes are inevitably found or newer material becomes available.

    It makes more sense to me for the authors to self-publish electronically, with a group of other writers using some form of group textbook listings and peer review, cutting out most of the middlemen.

    Frankly, the only potentially useful job the major publishers used to be good for was editing to check for proper grammar and typos, and they aren’t even doing an acceptable job at that any more.

  7. Professors are major culprits in this textbook fiasco. They are the primary book buyers by virtue of controlling choice. I have yet to see any academic body (e.g. AAUP) stand up and be counted on this issue. Of course most textbooks are written by academics so any uprising may not serve the common interest. I applaud your efforts to raise the dialog here

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