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Old 09-08-2013, 11:55 PM   #16
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Please don't blame the instructors. We don't receive any kickbacks from the publisher/bookstore, and we would LOVE to save you money so long as we can maintain the quality of your education.

The publishers will only supply the newest edition to our college bookstore, so if there are not enough used copies in-stock, we are required to select the newest edition. I've attempted to have the course readings (all public domain) hosted online only to be told by the college administration that I must select a textbook from a pre-approved list--a textbook containing the exact same public domain essays that I wanted to host online.
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Old 09-09-2013, 12:04 AM   #17
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Please don't blame the instructors. We don't receive any kickbacks from the publisher/bookstore, and we would LOVE to save you money so long as we can maintain the quality of your education.

The publishers will only supply the newest edition to our college bookstore, so if there are not enough used copies in-stock, we are required to select the newest edition. I've attempted to have the course readings (all public domain) hosted online only to be told by the college administration that I must select a textbook from a pre-approved list--a textbook containing the exact same public domain essays that I wanted to host online.
That is scandalous!

There must be some people inside the community and outside the college willing and able to make a stink about it.
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:14 AM   #18
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Please don't blame the instructors. We don't receive any kickbacks from the publisher/bookstore, and we would LOVE to save you money so long as we can maintain the quality of your education.
Sometimes, of course, the instructor wrote the book. Even there, though, I never felt that the instructor was trying to rip us off.

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The publishers will only supply the newest edition to our college bookstore, so if there are not enough used copies in-stock, we are required to select the newest edition.
We were often told, "We had to order the newest edition, but the older edition will still work."

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I've attempted to have the course readings (all public domain) hosted online only to be told by the college administration that I must select a textbook from a pre-approved list--a textbook containing the exact same public domain essays that I wanted to host online.
I've downloaded some courses where the instructor gave the students links to public domain material. I've seen a few classes that had no required textbook. One of those assigned readings from Wikipedia.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:39 PM   #19
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Please don't blame the instructors. We don't receive any kickbacks from the publisher/bookstore, and we would LOVE to save you money so long as we can maintain the quality of your education.

The publishers will only supply the newest edition to our college bookstore, so if there are not enough used copies in-stock, we are required to select the newest edition. I've attempted to have the course readings (all public domain) hosted online only to be told by the college administration that I must select a textbook from a pre-approved list--a textbook containing the exact same public domain essays that I wanted to host online.
Are students required to only buy from the college bookstore? I would think that if their are copies easily available elsewhere the student should have a choice if that is not the case. Nothing to do with you or the other instructors I am sure although a long term instructor can have more than a little influence.

I am sure the administrators have good motives, but good bookstore revenue probably makes them look good on the annual report.

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Old 09-09-2013, 09:34 PM   #20
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Five of the eighteen largest US universities, including the two with the biggest enrollment, are now for-profit. I fear those may have bought into the idea that maximizing shareholder value is the real corporate mission, and wonder if some of the horror stories have to do with those sorts of schools.

I'm also wondering about the 650 US college bookstores operated by Barnes and Noble. Do schools with those still have a financial incentive for students to patronize the college bookstore?
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:26 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by stickybuns View Post
Please don't blame the instructors. We don't receive any kickbacks from the publisher/bookstore, and we would LOVE to save you money so long as we can maintain the quality of your education.

The publishers will only supply the newest edition to our college bookstore, so if there are not enough used copies in-stock, we are required to select the newest edition. I've attempted to have the course readings (all public domain) hosted online only to be told by the college administration that I must select a textbook from a pre-approved list--a textbook containing the exact same public domain essays that I wanted to host online.
When I was in school, we were required to purchase a book written by the instructor which was never opened during the course. He said publishing the text was a condition of his contract.
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Old 09-10-2013, 09:18 AM   #22
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Is it just me who notices certain parallels between the two cost-spiraling industries? Doctors/Teachers do not get to choose what meds/books are to be purchased by patients/students but it is a central body above them, so the middlemen go directly to lobby the central body in order to get their texts selected, and since the hospitals/universities are isolated from the effects of the choices, there is no cost-saving incentive but obscure settlements between big pharma/big publishers and the central bodies.
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Old 09-10-2013, 09:23 AM   #23
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When I graduated in 2002 the price of textbooks was ridiculous. It's doubled since then?
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Old 09-10-2013, 01:36 PM   #24
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Is it just me who notices certain parallels between the two cost-spiraling industries? Doctors/Teachers do not get to choose what meds/books are to be purchased by patients/students but it is a central body above them, so the middlemen go directly to lobby the central body in order to get their texts selected, and since the hospitals/universities are isolated from the effects of the choices, there is no cost-saving incentive but obscure settlements between big pharma/big publishers and the central bodies.
I think that this is a very good comparison. We can extend it some more by saying that the next version of the product is often a dubious improvement over the old version. Being new is the important characteristic of the product.
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Old 09-10-2013, 02:22 PM   #25
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Is it just me who notices certain parallels between the two cost-spiraling industries? Doctors/Teachers do not get to choose what meds/books are to be purchased by patients/students but it is a central body above them, so the middlemen go directly to lobby the central body in order to get their texts selected, and since the hospitals/universities are isolated from the effects of the choices, there is no cost-saving incentive but obscure settlements between big pharma/big publishers and the central bodies.
Both medicine and education are heavily regulated industries and both are considered as necessitities in modern society. Whether the spiraling costs are due to the regulation (e.g. the lack of choice in providing services) or blind demand (i.e. people will pay almost any cost for the services) is an open question. It is also quite possible that medicine is heavily influenced by one while education is heavily influenced by the other.

Quite frankly though, I doubt that there is collusion between pharma/publishers and those central bodies. That's particularly true for education. Simply put, publishers benefit from the education system but the education system does not benefit from publishers (indeed, publishers are more of a burden).
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Old 09-10-2013, 02:26 PM   #26
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It all seems also connected to today's corporate need for ever accelerating profit growth. As in "year-over- year" increases are now the requirement - profit GROWTH must always accelerate mere profit is'now considered a failure. For my feeble mind that is why the economy of the whole planet has to eventually collapse under it's own weight. Very sad to see it expanded to education.

I would be interested to see the same look where other levels of education have been privatized. My guess is either the prices increase in similar amounts either via taxes or tuition

How long before the force of funding colleges through the back door of football advertizing revenue is dropped for Walmart, McDonalds &whatever start hanging logos out onthe front lawns at every level of edu-ma-cation.

won't even go into how to increases in healthcare correlate to increased health insurance and privitazaton of hospitals or "medical" groups here in the US.
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Old 09-11-2013, 08:56 AM   #27
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Here is a link to the PDF of an almost 10 years old report by the California Student Public Interest Research Group. Sadly, nothing has changed (if not for the worse). The report determined that textbook publishers drive up the cost of textbooks by such practices as "bundling" text with materials that are seldom if ever used, and forcing cheaper used books off the market by publishing revist editions with little enhanced content (sometimes they simply alter the book format and page numbers). Some interesting quotes:
  • “Publishers release new editions of successful textbooks every few years — not to improve content, although that may be a byproduct — but to discourage the sales of used books by making them seem obsolete.” - Erwin V. Cohen, former publishing industry executive for the Academic Press
  • “Textbooks have become ridiculously expensive because the people who choose the books (faculty) are not the ones who pay for them (students). Publishers spend a lot of money trying to get me to choose their book. They sponsor wine and cheese parties at conferences, they mail me free sample books and they send representatives from Portland (to Eugene) to sell to me…. This is a problem that needs addressing.” - Lane Community College Math Professor
  • “In my opinion, they produce a new edition when the number of second hand copies of an old edition seriously dents their sales figures.” - UCSD Math Professor
  • “New editions are driven by profit potential of publishers. There isn’t that much new information in a field to change in an intro text.” - University of Oregon Business Professor
  • “Probably you will not be surprised to find out that most of the mathematics faculty are as much frustrated by constant production of “new editions” of calculus textbooks as are the students. The subject of calculus did not change much in the last 100 years! And there are no reasons why the textbooks have to be updated every five years or even more frequently. New illustrations are sometimes added, exercises are shuffled and so on, but these do not substantially affect teaching/learning. Textbook publishers produce new editions solely as a means to sell more books and make more profit.” - UCLA Calculus Professor
  • “Faculty do not often know the cost of textbooks they require students to buy. It may help to reduce costs if there was a way to get this information routinely to the faculty – if the options are not simply book A versus book B, but book Q at $130 versus book B at $90.” - UCSC Math Professor

Source: Rip-off 101: How the Current Practices of the Publishing Industry Drive up the Cost of College Textbooks
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:48 AM   #28
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Five of the eighteen largest US universities, including the two with the biggest enrollment, are now for-profit. I fear those may have bought into the idea that maximizing shareholder value is the real corporate mission, and wonder if some of the horror stories have to do with those sorts of schools.

I'm also wondering about the 650 US college bookstores operated by Barnes and Noble. Do schools with those still have a financial incentive for students to patronize the college bookstore?
The other side to that is that 13 of the largest US universities are not-for-profit. Most are heavily regulated, closely monitored, and must provide detailed answers to the public when questioned about operating expenses and spending increases.

Nobody has shown any evidence that college bookstores are there to make a large profit for the school's bottom line. If that were the case, how could they compete with private booksellers?

I get tired of baseless accusations implying that these institutions are out to get you. Depending on your career goals they may not always be a great value, but I can assure you they can almost always justify every dollar they collect, because when they can't it becomes a major news story.

The focus here needs to remain on the publishers. They are the ones driving up textbook prices, which is the topic of discussion here.
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:42 PM   #29
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Nobody has shown any evidence that college bookstores are there to make a large profit for the school's bottom line.
Not exactly. But posts #15, #16, and #21 are evidence in that direction. Publicly available evidence would be stronger, and, if on a jury, the defense attorney might like my level of skepticism towards eyewitness testimony. Still, such testimony is surely evidence.

This next evidence is five years old, and perhaps the situation described is improving, but it is pretty strong evidence that even a non-profit state school can be corrupt when it comes to textbooks:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121565135185141235.html

Compared to basing financial aid on extra-curricular activity participation, the custom book racket is minor, but it still is, to me, corruption.

Having said that, when it comes to textbooks, I would agree that there are lots of non-corrupt schools. My kids have not experienced the worst practices described in this thread.
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Old 09-12-2013, 11:09 AM   #30
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Not exactly. But posts #15, #16, and #21 are evidence in that direction. Publicly available evidence would be stronger, and, if on a jury, the defense attorney might like my level of skepticism towards eyewitness testimony. Still, such testimony is surely evidence.

This next evidence is five years old, and perhaps the situation described is improving, but it is pretty strong evidence that even a non-profit state school can be corrupt when it comes to textbooks:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121565135185141235.html

Compared to basing financial aid on extra-curricular activity participation, the custom book racket is minor, but it still is, to me, corruption.

Having said that, when it comes to textbooks, I would agree that there are lots of non-corrupt schools. My kids have not experienced the worst practices described in this thread.
There are corrupt bookstores I am sure, however there is corruption in every area of government and business at some point in history. That doesn't mean everything is a corrupt conspiracy at all times. In fact, in my experence working with government contracts the opposite is normally true. Most administrative decisions are typically made based not on common or business sense, but rather on regulation and policies that were demanded by an undereducated and overstimulated general public.

And for the record, if you're looking for sympathy about athletes not getting a full free ride though college, you're not going to get it from me. That is way off topic here, so I won't go into it further.
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