General Question

jcs007's avatar

Why must universities use the most confusing, expensive textbook to teach a course?

Asked by jcs007 (1770points) June 11th, 2008

Why should I spend $100+ on a paper weight made of cardboard, paper, and glue when I could spend that money on a much fancier one: like a glass paper weight. note sarcasm

Seriously though, there are enough reviews from angry/slightly dumber students out there for universities to make educated decisions on the best books to use.

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12 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Most text books are expensive. Its a bit of niche market you see. Fortunately my university had a library.

Dog's avatar

I usually ended up buying supplemental books for harder courses.

Check to see if there is a lending library on campus or if the professor puts a copy of the text in the library.
You can avoid the purchase entirely if you plan your time well.

bmhit1991's avatar

why can’t they all use iTunes U?! Haste be the day….. When it all goes digital, the production cost drops to nothing. I can’t wait until all of education goes digital. But I would get distracted so much! Haha!

nikipedia's avatar

Ask your professor why s/he picked that book. Most of them have good reasons and are also unaware of the price. It might be helpful to future students if you point that out. Is there a particular text you’re annoyed with? Some are just tradition, at this point.

I was dead broke for most of college and made great use of the reserve system. It was really inconvenient but also forced me to be in the library studying for several hours at a time. Strongly recommended.

MisterBlueSky85's avatar

I talked to my professors about textbooks. I asked about who is to blame for the high costs – the authors, the publishers, the professors (demanding new versions), the textbook stores, or the students (somehow?).

The price is going up because the publisher demands higher and higher revenues. Also, they put out new editions of books more and more often, then make unfair deals with the textbook stores that guarantee the stores will only stock the new editions (or the publishers won’t allow them to sell their books). The professors, then, are forced to make their students buy the newest versions because the older ones aren’t widely available. :-(

playthebanjo's avatar

I used to buy the older versions of my texts and saved lots through grad school. most of the time the professor does not know of any differences between editions.

soundedfury's avatar

Yeah, the problem doesn’t lie with the professors when it comes to price. Price is largely set by the publisher, and most professors aren’t particularly aware of price changes. They usually are just trying to use the best book for the job.

Also, remember that for most survey/gen-ed classes, the books aren’t chosen by the professor, but by the committees that created the course. Almost any class 200 level or below is standardized and text don’t vary much. There is some wiggle room on additional materials, but not much on the core text.

But, frankly, I prefer the best text for the job. The price may be a little steep, but you’ll get that back either by keeping the book for future use or by selling it at the end of the semester.

jrpowell's avatar

I would borrow books and photocopy what I needed. It usually turned out to be cheaper but time consuming.

I took a class on the government of Oregon and we only used the glossary in the book. I returned the 80$ textbook and photocopied the 12 pages we actually needed. That is a lot of PBR.

jballou's avatar

Photocopying textbooks is illegal, by the way.

nocountry2's avatar

“Interestingly” enough, most text books at my college just happened to be written by the professor….

Idknown's avatar

Buy used books.

The arbitrage was nuts! Being a young entrepreneur, I made quite some dining hall money by reselling used books to people. I would buy a book from one person for 20, and resell it for 40. Everyone wins. The guy was going to sell his book to the bookstore for 5 bucks, I gave him 4 times that. The person was going to buy the same book for 80, I saved them half that. Everyone wins, including myself, and the ‘man’ loses out.

Buy used.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Idknown depending on your field that doesn’t always work. Sciences text books tend to date incredibly fast. I’ve seen medical textbooks that are out of date before they’ve been published.

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