Textbooks leave students (book)strapped for cash

By U-Wire

Professors frequently assign “required” texts which are used very briefly, or sometimes never at all. As the cost of textbooks steadily rises, we wonder why professors and departments don’t prioritize texts, at least partially, on the basis of cost.

To make matters worse, the dismal resale rates of most textbooks make the thought of an end-of-term book burning particularly appealing.

After all, the emergence of powerful, often open-source information technology tools such as Wikipedia reduce our dependence on costly textbooks. At some point in the future, we expect online content to overtake the conventional paper textbook, but probably not in the form of Wikipedia.

Rather, look for a campus-wide Internet resource, perhaps some form of iLearn or Blackboard, to change the way we deal with information.

Though it’s unlikely a comprehensive solution to the textbook crisis will present itself anytime soon, we do believe a few simple considerations ought to be made.

First, the administration should make an effort to reduce the frequency of edition changes in textbooks.

For the most part, updated editions to texts offer few substantial content changes but usually have the appearance of change because of new graphics and layout.

Undoubtedly, publishers don’t just release new editions of textbooks to continually update our knowledge.

Publishing is a competitive business, and releasing new editions of texts virtually guarantees sales with the least amount of effort.

Instead of blindly accepting revised editions, professors ought to be required to review and compare editions, only opting for change when content is significantly updated or different.

If companies’ policies don’t allow for that, then professors should stop using those books.

Additionally, more instructors should adopt a “flex-text” policy, allowing students to use either recent or older editions of their textbooks, including a key identifying where homework can be found in each text.

In general, we find that newer professors, often in large seminars, tend to require multiple texts, which are rarely used in entirety.

After teaching the course several times, he or she might reconsider which texts to require.

To remedy this problem, more departments should develop a compendium of readings (from a variety of sources) to reduce student cost and maximize the usefulness of materials.

Logistically, this would also greatly simplify matters for students, who would only have one book to bring to class instead of six.

Ultimately, when deciding what textbooks to require, professors should try to remember their experiences as students.

Students dread spending hundreds of dollars each semester at the bookstore on resources they might never use.

In an age in which rising tuition and fees prevent many would-be students from the college opportunity all together, a waste of this magnitude is unacceptable.