Friday, February 10, 2012
Are you kidding me!? Now I know the price of textbooks is out of control!
I have been teaching at the college and university levels for nearly 20 years. During that time have become acutely aware that the price of textbooks has been spiraling out of control. Now I know that they are WAY out of control.
This morning I was thinking about my ichthyology class, a course I will teach during Winter 2011. What really opened my eyes about textbooks and prices was when I looked at a book I was considering to use in the laboratory portion of the class. That book is titled, "How to Know the Freshwater Fishes." It is a book of taxonomic keys to many of the freshwater fishes of North America. It is spiral-bound, doesn't even use shiny paper, and is just 213 pp. long. It is in its 3rd edition, and that edition came out in 1978. Yep, that's over 30 years ago, so it's not like I'd be paying for the latest and greatest of anything. Also, the book contains pen-and-ink line drawings of many representative fishes, but there are no color plates or photographs, and, frankly, nothing I'd call spectacular.
This book's copyright is now owned by the McGraw-Hill Company. When I checked some sites on-line to see how much this book might cost I was expecting to see prices in the $20-30 range. I was SHOCKED when I saw that Amazon.com lists it for $58.13. Yikes! There is NO way I am going to ask my students to put out that kind of cash for this slim book, even though it is quite useful. So, I looked further. BarnesandNoble.com lists it for $51.33, not much better, but come on! This is CRAZY!
I have heard a few rumors at the federal government level about textbook reform, I sure hope it's more than a rumor!
High textbook prices actually led a group of fellow faculty members and I to write our own textbook for our Science Foundations class. We make it available to our students for free.
As for the publishers of college textbooks...I think it's about time for the peasants to grab their pitchforks and storm the castle!