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Old 03-29-2010, 07:39 PM   #16
Ben Thornton
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Given the low cost of self-publishing, through lulu and the like, it seems strange to me that academic print runs are so expensive. I suppose that there is a kudos element of being published by a "proper" academic press. Now that there is no real economic reason for such books to be expensive, I can't see it lasting.
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Old 03-30-2010, 02:56 AM   #17
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Given the low cost of self-publishing, through lulu and the like, it seems strange to me that academic print runs are so expensive. I suppose that there is a kudos element of being published by a "proper" academic press. Now that there is no real economic reason for such books to be expensive, I can't see it lasting.
The high cost is due to the fact that academic books have to be rigorously proofed and peer-reviewed, to a far higher standard than novels. Editing/proofing is always an expensive process; with academic books, the cost of it can only be offset against a small number of sales, hence the high unit cost.
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Old 03-30-2010, 05:54 AM   #18
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The high cost is due to the fact that academic books have to be rigorously proofed and peer-reviewed, to a far higher standard than novels. Editing/proofing is always an expensive process; with academic books, the cost of it can only be offset against a small number of sales, hence the high unit cost.
Peer review I can agree with, but you should read the £130 book I referred to earlier - the proofing is terrible. Admittedly it is written by a non-native English speaker, but there are basic errors such that I find it difficult to believe the publisher did any proofreading at all.
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Old 03-30-2010, 12:53 PM   #19
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"gouge" is an unpleasant accusation to make.
How about "scam" then. If someone can't see that the textbook market is a racket, then they must be extremely naive.

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As a former textbook author myself
Ah, that clears it up, thanks.
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Old 03-30-2010, 11:07 PM   #20
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How about "scam" then. If someone can't see that the textbook market is a racket, then they must be extremely naive.
Agree.

There is no reason undergraduate Physics and Math books should cost so damn much, as the theorems have been around for over a hundred years in almost all cases. I hear that Biology changes constantly, but I can't think of anything else where undergraduate level work changes at all within a decade.

OK, programming, but most of the algorithms are old.
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Old 03-31-2010, 03:43 AM   #21
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Agree.

There is no reason undergraduate Physics and Math books should cost so damn much, as the theorems have been around for over a hundred years in almost all cases.
But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".

Last edited by HarryT; 03-31-2010 at 03:46 AM.
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Old 03-31-2010, 05:19 AM   #22
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But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".
Ahh...then it is not just me who thinks that once famous British educations is going down the road
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Old 03-31-2010, 06:29 AM   #23
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If you think it's too expensive, don't buy it. A seller has a perfect right to ask whatever they wish for an e-book, just as the customer has a right not to buy it if they feel it's too expensive.
And, the customer has the right to complain and to try to convince others these prices are outrageous.
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Old 03-31-2010, 06:32 AM   #24
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The high cost is due to the fact that academic books have to be rigorously proofed and peer-reviewed,
I have peer-reviewed quite a bit, including text books -- and never been paid for it. Hence, one might argue that the review process for academic text-books is more likely to be less expensive compared to standard literature.
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Old 03-31-2010, 06:41 AM   #25
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I have peer-reviewed quite a bit, including text books -- and never been paid for it.
What publisher was that for, as a mater of interest? I used to do a fair amount of peer reviewing of programming books for Wiley, and they paid quite well.
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Old 03-31-2010, 06:53 AM   #26
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What publisher was that for, as a mater of interest? I used to do a fair amount of peer reviewing of programming books for Wiley, and they paid quite well.
Springer and Humana Press (bought by them recently) -- biomedical/life sciences books or chapters.
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Old 03-31-2010, 06:55 AM   #27
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What publisher was that for, as a mater of interest? I used to do a fair amount of peer reviewing of programming books for Wiley, and they paid quite well.
Springer and Humana Press (bought by Springer recently) -- biomedical/life sciences books or chapters.
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Old 03-31-2010, 07:00 AM   #28
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Springer and Humana Press (bought by them recently) -- biomedical/life sciences books or chapters.
With Wiley, at the time I was reviewing for them, you had the choice of $500 in cash, or $1000 in books. I generally went for the books!
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Old 03-31-2010, 09:18 AM   #29
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But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".
I heard that! A few years ago I was a substitute instructor for first year Calculus at a local community college. When I was given the course syllabus I was shocked to see that the first semester was spent on concepts from algebra and trigonometry that had been taught in the third and fourth years of high school in my day. Limits were not even mentioned until the second semester of the college “Calculus” class.

This whole discussion has given me the idea of a successful model for e-book authors and publishers for negating the income loss from piracy, at least for text books and required reading for classes. That is if e-books ever make a big penetration into this market; likely a slow process for sure. Charge each student a per book fee to take the class with the fee passed on to the publisher for each required e-book. The student can download it for free from the legitimate source, or from some 'darknet' site if that floats his boat.

Doesn't solve the general e-book piracy problem, but it does for a small niche market at least.
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Old 03-31-2010, 09:35 AM   #30
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But academic standards have not remained the same; as the range of subjects taught in schools has widened, the depth of knowledge taught in maths and sciences has fallen. 30 years ago, an undergraduate physics textbook could assume that the reader knew what a "line integral" or a "2nd order ordinary differential equation" was; today, people are going to university to study physics, having barely been introduced to elementary calculus, and a textbook used when I was a student in the late 1970s would be incomprehensible. Textbooks are constantly having to be revised, therefore, to match the syllabuses set by the school examination boards. Even the textbooks I wrote myself in the mid '90s can no longer be used, for that reason - they are now considered to be too "hard".
The knowledge needed for each theorem taught has not changed. It doesn't matter if I know what a differential is or not before a class if that class is attempting to teach me how about the Navier-Stokes equations.

If I am unprepared there are two options, I can look it up on my own time in another book or on Google, or I can ask another person such as a TA during office hours. Or I can take the third option and fail out of class, which is what should happen if a student is unprepared academically. Claiming that falling academic standards are why textbooks are so high, is ludicrous in that basic principles needed for understanding more advanced principles do not change. You might as well claim that the new generation is not nearly as brave, smart, or hard-working as any previous generation, and end with a "KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN."
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