U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Fwd: Re: WAY OT! TEXT BOOKS


On Fri, 08 Sep 2006 10:45:08 -0500, "Pam Niedermayer" <pam@pinehill.com>

> Now that we all know the revisions are often trivial, why not buy the 
> previous edition on Amazon for a song?

The textbook authors change the exercise problems at the end of each
chapter and students can't do the homework problems with older books. In
science and engineering, this may be a matter of changing numbers. In
mathematics (where numbers aren't important), this may be a matter of
shuffling the problems. But they suffice for the publisher's purpose.

In science and engineering, introductory textbooks may have covered the
same material for past decades, but I do see some difference in
organization and presentation of the material to fit "standard" syllabus
and improve readability. Use of color, graphics, etc. are sometimes
useful, and also discourages xeroxing the whole book.

I think textbooks for introductory courses of mathematics didn't change
much over the decades... they still teach with Royden or Rudin for
analysis, for example. Books get recycled, homework solutions get
recycled, lecture notes get recycled, jokes in the lecture get recycled,
EVERYTHING. (But those books are expensive, too.)

When I was undergrad, I didn't buy books for about half of the courses
(and skipped many of them). I bought film and went to shoot instead. But
if I think back, books (and films) have been the cheapest part of
education. (I also paid and still pay a LOT of library fines and other
service fees, but that's a different story.) I think the "price" of not
using the best available resource (for the particular learning
experience) is higher in the long run.

One phenomenon I see in some "institute" (don't ask) is that some
professors use textbooks authored by the same institute although there
are "better" books for the particular course, although, they are written
by people at different universities. Well they won't admit this but
institutional bias can influence things like this.

I worked closely with one guy who is an author of a very famous graduate
level textbook. When the edition came out, he run some numbers. Not
surprisingly, he made less money than minimum wage if he counted all the
hours he spent on the book. It is the publisher who is taking much
money, followed by bookstores, and then the rest of people involved. Of
course, if you go to India or China, you can buy the same book in
paperback for 1/3 the US price. The author uses this international
paperback edition when he brings the book to his lecture because it's
easier to carry.