mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Throwing the book at custom textbooks...

As a part-time MBA student, I now have a new enemy. It was one I encountered once in my undergrad years, but it is a scourge that seems to be spreading. Out of the four classes I've encountered so far (two under my rather large belt, two starting this week), two of the four classes have this dreaded enemy.

What is this that makes MadAnthony's blood boil? "Custom" textbooks. These are textbooks that publishers print to order for a professor with exactly the chapters that they are going to use. Publishers sell them to professors with the idea that they benefit students - why should students pay for the whole textbook when the prof is only going to cover a couple of the chapters in class?

Of course, the appeal to publishers is that these books have absolutly no resale value, since they are custom made for a specific class. This is opposed to traditional textbooks, which are common to many classes, and thus can be sold back to bookstores at the end of the year, or resold on places like or Amazon's marketplace. Students lose twice - they can't purchase the book used, and when they are done with it they can't resell it. Any decrease in price by not buying the whole book is offset by the lack of a used market and the lack of resale value.

I listed my old Managerial Accounting textbook on after I got back from Christmas break. It sold for $60 a day after I listed it, mostly because I still had the study guide and CD. The textbook for my other class still sits around somewhere, worthless.

Textbook publishers have been seeing their fat margins cut into by the ease of used textbook sales, and custom texts are a way to get it back. I suppose it's their right - they are profit-making businesses, and this is a way for them to make money. I think that professors, however, should seriously consider the benefits to students of using textbooks that can be bought used and resold rather than "custom" textbooks. Of course, since many professors are also textbook authors, there may be some divided loyalties there.


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