The Scam that is College Textbooks

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by aaronvan, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #1
    With all the discussion of onerous student loans and out-of-control tuition costs, consider this: $566.00 for these three college textbooks! It's almost unbelievable. Talk about price gouging.
     

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  2. Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

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    #2
    Yeah, they're expensive. I bought my first year textbooks, but I've been renting ebooks for the last couple of years instead. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford both them and the tuition.
     
  3. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    #3
    Yup, it is a scam, you pay a premium for them, and then try to sell them back, and they only give you a fraction of what you paid. They then turn around and sell them close to what you paid for in the first place.
     
  4. satcomer, Dec 31, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014

    satcomer macrumors 603

    satcomer

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    #4
    We had this back in my time in the late 80's! This is nothing new and we semi-solved the problem with the used book section. Those books were already highlighted, etc and marked at the important parts of of the book.

    But Yes this scam perpetrated by the professors publishing this books. The deference between the new book and the used book was almost negligible.
     
  5. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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  6. MechaSpanky macrumors 6502

    MechaSpanky

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    #6
    I feel your pain. What's worse is many of the books that they "require" you will only use once or not at all. The high price of college text books is a crime but universities help support it by limiting the number of book sellers that can carry certain books. At my university, there was only one bookstore that you could officially buy books from. There was a used store but the prices weren't much better and they didn't carry many of the books because they weren't officially a "licensed" book seller (with the university). For a school of around 7,000 students, you would think that there would be more than one book store but there wasn't.
     
  7. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #7
    I don't think "scam" is the right word here - it seems to imply that there's something hidden or illegal going on.

    College textbooks are not always used for years and years, either because information in them becomes updated or replaced with newer, more current information, or a different professor starts to teach the class, or whatever.

    What this means is, a textbook is written and published, and it has a short and finite lifespan before it's replaced by another book. Add to that the fact that the audience for the book is pretty small (seriously, are that many people going into Barnes and Noble to pick up calculus textbooks for some light reading in the evenings), and it becomes easier to understand why the price is so high. A book which is marketed to millions of people that stands to be published and sold for 20 years has much more opportunity to make up the costs to the author, publisher, printer, etc.

    As far as buying them back and reselling them, that's no different from any other business that buys used merchandise and re-sells it - they need to make money to stay in business. Altruism doesn't pay the bills.
     
  8. MacNut macrumors Core

    MacNut

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    #8
    It's not like the colleges are hurting for money, they could subsidize these books and eat a lot of the cost. Wait aahahaha I made a joke.:p They won't even pay a college athlete his worth, why would they help you with a book.
     
  9. Ray Brady macrumors 6502

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    Dec 21, 2011
    #9
    This would have been a valid excuse in the 1980s. These days, print-on-demand services have made small-run prints very inexpensive. Consider, if these books are expected to have short shelf-lives, why are they hardcover? Put those same books in a standard trade paperback format, and you could probably get them printed for around $20 a copy. A standard markup would bump that up to $50 at full retail. Better yet, offering an eBook version could realistically drop the price to $20 or $30.
     
  10. MkVsTheWorld macrumors regular

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    Baltimore
    #10
    Price gouging is most accurate.

    Textbook publishers artificially increase prices in developed nations because they know people can and will pay the price. In other regions of the world (ie developing nations), a Calculus textbook is sold for way less. Some eBay seller had the clever idea of having family in Thailand buy popular textbooks and ship them to the United States. This allowed the eBay seller to sell brand new textbooks at a fraction of the inflated domestic cost. Here's a well-written article about it:

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/...ated-a-publishing-giant-at-the-supreme-court/
     
  11. turtle777 macrumors 6502a

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    Apr 30, 2004
    #11
    LOL, if you think college BOOKS are a scam, what do you think about college in general ? :)

    While one can debate the definition of "scam", I have no doubt college eduction these days is of the lowest quality to price ratio ever.

    For most people, it's a waste of time and money, especially liberal arts degrees.

    -t
     
  12. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #12
    It's the bookstores that are selling the books, not the colleges. In many, many cases, they have no financial relationship with each other.

    That doesn't change the fact that the book may only be for sale for two, maybe three semesters - as opposed to a general fiction book which might get sold for decades. The costs need to be recouped in a much shorter time frame. There's much more going on than just the cost of manufacturing here - they're paying authors, editors, publishers, etc.
     
  13. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #13
    Ah, the voice of sweet reason, and objective argument.

    As you point out, it is not as though calculus textbooks are bedtime reading for most people, and for academics, many (not all, I'll readily grant) will have put years of their lives into researching this text - one which may be out of date within a short period of time.

    To my Friends Across The Pond, this is the price of a market economy……….in the absence of taxes, subsidies, scholarships, you pay for education. Myself, I prefer the European model……..

    And, what about using university libraries - many of them are quite well stocked…...


    Ah, I love the certitude with which such posts are written. Such sweeping statements. Such utter confidence in sturdy and strongly held opinions. Such robust dismissal of that which is not - or cannot be - measured in immediate (financial) reward or monetary worth……..

    Well, I am one of those who thinks that learning for learning's sake is a wonderful idea, a well stocked mind is a pleasure to meet and engage with………..and - at its best - a liberal arts degree bestows a respect for learning, education, and sometimes even allows the development of a healthy ability to engage in critical analysis……...
     
  14. smallcoffee macrumors 6502a

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    North America
    #14
    Great post.

    I also want to add that you should absolutely never purchase a textbook until you arrive at the first day of class. Many courses require a textbook in writing, but you don't actually need it. You can also split the costs with a classmate or find a myriad of alternative solutions. You do not have to buy full priced books necessarily.

    I will say though that if you're concerned about the constant "refresh" of college textbooks, the onus is on the professor to judge whether or not they actually need to require a new edition textbook. There's also the problem of availability of older editions too.
     
  15. Roller macrumors 68020

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    Jun 25, 2003
    #15
    As a co-author of several post-graduate medical texts, I can say that whatever payment I received didn't come close to compensating me for the many hours of effort that went into writing and editing - I could have made a lot more money with other pursuits or simply enjoyed the time. However, I did obtain considerable personal satisfaction knowing that somebody was learning from what I had written, and it's hard to put a price on that.

    Having said that, as the dad of two college students, I agree that textbook prices here in the U.S. are awfully high, and that their quality and utility vary.
     
  16. jbachandouris macrumors 68040

    jbachandouris

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    Upstate NY
    #16
    I have a different problem: I attend ITT and they only offer e-textbooks with no option of a physical textbook even if you desire one.

    We have two weeks off for the holidays and the company responsible for providing access to these textbooks have 'server maintenance' during the full two weeks. So, if you haven't checked them out or downloaded them to your iPad, you have no access at all.
     
  17. OneMike macrumors 601

    OneMike

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    #17
    Sell to other students or online to get a better price
     
  18. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

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    #18
    One of the problems I see too is the constant "update cycle" of textbooks that don't really need to be updated. The "staples" like Calculus, General and Organic Chemistry, physics and many other "hard" science and match classes haven't really changed in the last 20-30 years, or at least at for the freshman and sophomore level classes.

    There really is no reason why James Stewart needs to write a new edition of Calculus every 2-3 years. When I was a freshman in college, I bought edition 5e, which I was told would last me through 3 semesters of calculus. That was all good and well, except for the fact that 6e came out between the time I took Calculus II and Calculus III. The two editions were almost word for word identical, except for the practice problems. Fortunately, I was not the only one in this situation-the professor was sympathetic to us, and specified alternate practice problems for those using the old edition.

    Many professors that I've known will avoid adopting the newer edition for as long as they could, but the book store would often force them to adopt a newer edition because they were no longer able to get copies of the old one.

    Silberberg's Chemistry is just as bad-I bought the 4th edition new when I took general chemistry as a freshman in 2006. I still use my 4th edition somewhat regularly as a reference, and really there are no new concepts and not much change in the text between the 4th edition and the current 7th edition.

    My current department has somewhat solved the issue with general chemistry, as the textbook was written by someone in the department and is self-published. He puts the whole thing free online for download, or for students wanting a physical copy he sells it at slightly under cost(it costs him something like $19.10 to print, and he sells it for $19 so that he doesn't have to deal with reporting the the profit on it).
     
  19. Scepticalscribe, Dec 31, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #19
    Well, I used to work as a university teacher for years, and one of the mantras - one of those charming ideas imported under some duress from Our Cousins Across The Pond and resisted by some faculty members who thought that Teaching mattered more than publishing or sourcing research and investment funding - was Publish Or Be Damned.

    And, if the form that publishing took was an update to an already perfectly good textbook, so be it…..

    However, reading this thread, I confess to some surprise at the fact that some of my fellow forum members from Across the Pond fail to realise that the implementation of certain educational values and economic preferences will have certain policy outcomes.

    Moreover, there appears to be a resistance to having to accept different text books when a new professor appears on the scene. Sometimes, (and I write from experience here) a new professor will want to make students see old things in a new way, and will prescribe new texts with new ideas, research and so on.

    Guys and gals, this is university - if you are not open to new thoughts, ideas, research, new ways of looking at things then, your minds will never be open to the possibility that things may be different to how they are perceived in received texts or received wisdom. The whole point of university - especially the much derided liberal arts - is to encourage the development of the faculties of critical thought and critical analysis, of weighing competing claims on what may be right, or less right or downright wrong, of challenging ideas, of learning to evaluate varying sources and evidence, and trying to analyse its worth and value accordingly.

    You are meant to read many, many books, that is what you are there for, when you are a student. Books which may contradict one another. And - as a former academic - I make no apology for putting together long book lists, and encouraging (strongly, very strongly) my students to read most of what was contained therein. This meant that they bought some, and borrowed others - some from me, some from the library. (This also meant that I spent years writing and researching and thinking about stuff that - when published - was geared to a small, informed, literate and historically interested community.)

    Seriously, guys. Stop whinging and start studying.

     
  20. smallcoffee macrumors 6502a

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    North America
    #20
    The problem, is that in the U.S. the mantra from the baby boomers has been go to college to get a job. Not go to college so you can become a better person.

    So now people are asking how a liberal arts eduction gets them a job, and they are looking at it strictly as a financial cost-benefit.

    I disagree with that as a way of education. To make a good society we need to actually decrease the emphasis on attending college, at least for looking for a job. We need more trade schools and apprenticeships so that we don't have people going into debt to pay for an education that they don't even really want.

    Basically we've combined trade and liberal education where they need to be separated.
     
  21. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

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    Colorado
    #21
    Agreed. You can find some books online at Amazon, etc. but it is severe price-gouging to say the least.
     
  22. aaronvan thread starter Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #22
    Some information in textbooks does need updating. However, I'm pretty sure Calculus I hasn't changed much since Karl Weierstrass put it on a rigorous footing like over a century ago, not enough to require a new edition every other year, anyway.

    I compared my new $120.00 calc textbook to one from 1958 and besides all the pretty pictures and the associated web site, not much has changed. In fact, the antique seems to have more practice problems.
     
  23. SurferMan macrumors 65816

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    South FL
    #23
    I went to a private college and it was even worse, you were basically stuck with the book. You couldn't resell back, and if you tried to sell at any of the regular book/college stores like the one that was across from the public college that was down the street from my school, they wouldn't either b/c the books were "different" and they wouldn't be able to resell to the public college. I remember having a stack of books in the garage in a box, no clue what I ended up doing with them as I graduated 10 years ago lol.
     
  24. ejb190 macrumors 65816

    ejb190

    #24
    The best thing I can tell you is to become friends with upper class-men! If you know who took the class you are taking this year last year, you might just have a way to get some used books and cut out the middle man!
     
  25. kazmac macrumors 601

    kazmac

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    #25
    Yeah, college education costs are insane in the States. Renting ebooks is the best bet these days.

    That said, I wish I would have kept my meteorology text book for writing reference.
     

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