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« Eureka | Main | In search of lost GoogleBooks periodicals »

July 06, 2010


Brandon Watson

I was amused by the line:

"If colleges act decisively, they can reduce costs, enhance pedagogy, increase student success, and change how textbooks and related course materials are created, distributed, and used."

Keeping our promises modest and reasonable, aren't we?

One thing I found interesting about the article was the role that it presented for administrators (who, as you say, are =colleges in the language of the essay, even resulting at one point in the phrase "faculty members and colleges"): their role is to be 'leaders' who maintain 'control of teaching and learning'. Because, really, I can't think of any faculty members I know who think of administrators in quite this way; and I suspect this disconnect is a widespread problem.

R Lapides

The Kirkus and LJ reviews of your father's book make it very enticing.


As a former acquiring editor for a college text publisher, I have some reactions.

In the case of college textbooks, as you observe, the buyer does not select the product, and the person who does select the product suffers no penalty for choosing a new edition or a totally new book, either of which eliminates the possibility of the student buying a less expensive new or used book. And make no mistake of it, the marketing of just-off-the-press books always stresses that the new books are necessary for the professor to be teaching the very latest in the discipline. Publishers respond to the constant switching by bringing out new books and revising old ones on shorter and shorter cycles. And because those cycles are short, they must recover production costs quickly. That pushes price increases. Talk about a vicious circle!

The cost of books varies from discipline to discipline--a philosophy book almost always costs much less than a math book--and according to level. And while a student might find an obscure novel in the library, there probably won't be a needed principles of economics there.

Some schools ban the receipt of royalties from sales at that school by a local faculty member.

Finally, drawings, photographs, graphs, etc., add greatly to the cost of book production. (And weight: wonder why schoolchildren need wheeled backpacks to carry their textbooks?) When you next proclaim the beauty of lavish illustration, don't forget its cost.

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