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Colleges May Start Forcing Switch To eTextbooks 419

Posted by Soulskill
from the thousands-of-chiropractors-cry-out-in-dismay dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's the new approach under consideration by college leaders and textbook manufacturers: 'Colleges require students to pay a course-materials fee, which would be used to buy e-books for all of them (whatever text the professor recommends, just as in the old model).' That may be 'the best way to control skyrocketing costs and may actually save the textbook industry from digital piracy,' proponents claim."
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Colleges May Start Forcing Switch To eTextbooks

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:43PM (#34016514)

    Currently, students at most universities aren't required to buy textbooks. They can borrow them at the library (frequently on reserve) and save money (at the cost of time and convenience). I can't see this working without some opt-out mechanism at the very least.

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:48PM (#34016586)

      They can borrow them at the library (frequently on reserve) and save money

      In ye olden days, when we could get 5 cent per page photocopies, the university bookstore never seemed to sell any any books that cost much more than 5 cents per page, if you know what I mean.

      The response of the professors/TAs/instructors was highly variable.

      The publishing industry solution was wait for photocopy prices to raise to like ten cents or whatever it is now, and also bulk the heck out of the books like a walmart customer on HFCS. So, a 600 page calculus tome is going to cost me $60 to photocopy or $80 new... may as well buy it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RevWaldo (1186281)
        Photocopying? How 20th century. I've taken snapshots of textbook pages with my Droid that were quite readable, both on the Droid and pulled up onto my laptop. It'd take some doing to do this for an entire textbook, but it'd hardly be rocket surgery to rig up a stand to hold the smartphone/camera.

        .
        • by tophermeyer (1573841) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:12PM (#34016902)

          Absolutely serious when I say this, my college Fraternity used pledges to do just that (probably still do).

          All the guys taking a given class would throw in a few bucks for one copy of the text, then as if by magic we would receive an electronic version.

          Terrible copyright infringement, pyramid scheming, slavery, hazing, and all that. But it was so convenient.

          • by LoudMusic (199347) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:28PM (#34017136)

            Absolutely serious when I say this, my college Fraternity used pledges to do just that (probably still do).

            All the guys taking a given class would throw in a few bucks for one copy of the text, then as if by magic we would receive an electronic version.

            Terrible copyright infringement, pyramid scheming, slavery, hazing, and all that. But it was so convenient.

            You mean righteous distribution of knowledge?

          • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday October 25, 2010 @05:02PM (#34017628) Journal

            Something ye forgot:

            YOU CAN'T RESELL E-TEXTS. When I was in college I used to buy books for about $50 used, get my work out of it, and then sell it for $40 at the end of semester. NET COST: $10.

            Now this e-text idea will prevent us from doing that. It will end-up costing MORE not less.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by KGBear (71109)
              That is exactly the point. It's the after-market they're going after. Since I decided to go back to school I have been spending about a TENTH of what my school's book store (University of Denver) would charge me for the new items. Some books I may sell, some I may want to keep for future reference, and I can choose to do that because I got them for cheap. What's more, buy turning this into a fee, they are taking away from me the freedom to pick where I want to buy my books now! What's worse than a new tax?
            • by runlevelfour (1329235) on Monday October 25, 2010 @06:19PM (#34018674)
              I am curious where you went to school. Mine tended cost around $50-120 and if you sold it back in mint condition you might get half of that back. Any sort of blemish (dog ear, crease in cover or a page, any marks, worn edges) immediately cut even that miserable sale price in half. Then they restocked the used books at about 10% less than new (regardless of their condition they cost the same in spite of the fact they screwed you based on damage).

              Only recently has this monopoly been broken with the advent of online textbook purchasing, and prices are a bit more reasonable on the new prices. They still rape you on the used purchase/sell-back end but that can be circumvented if you keep an ear out and find people who just had the class and you're about to take it. Cut out the middle-man and both sides are happy. Higher learning has become such a racket driven by lust for profit.

              Recently taking more classes we used e-book versions which I say was even more of a rip-off. The e-book cost about 40-60% of the dead-tree version, and they revoke access after about six months to a year, and of course you can't sell it back at all. Maybe I am weird but I prefer to keep my textbooks as reference and refreshers.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                Are books really so expensive in the western world, or is most of what is posted online just an exaggeration?? I'm doing my engineering at a university in India, and can get an entire semesters books for less than the equivalent of $100(If all are bought new). With some shopping around, borrowing from the library and reselling the books after the semester, the cost goes down to less than $20-$30. The cheapest way is just to photocopy the chapters you need(cost less than $10) The books are just low price e
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What university did you go to?!?

      I don't know of any university where you could do that because professors always want you to have the latest edition; which the library never has or if they do, just one copy - yeah, share that with 40 classmates. They then assign reading and problems out of that particular edition.

      Which is completely asinine - especially for undergraduate courses. I mean really, when was the time there was a break through in accounting, basic physics, chemistry, computer science, psycholog

      • by retchdog (1319261)

        Buy the old edition for $10 and photocopy just the problems (probably ~50 pages, or ~100 at most). The material is the same old schlock anyway and you don't need the current version unless maybe you're a true "template learner" (read: moron).

        The professors should be doubly ashamed; they're milking their students and usually getting jackshit in royalties. Exploiting people for someone else for nearly free is the lowest of the low.

        Then again, once i tried giving the equivalent problems for each edition of the

      • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:45PM (#34017410)
        For a few years (as a grad student) I taught at a community college to augment my pathetic stipend. I was given a remarkable amount of control over the courses. Initially I made it a point to not assign readings out of an overpriced book, the first semester I'd say that a third of my readings came from online articles. Almost as soon as the other faculty discovered what I was doing I was threatened with termination and a letter was sent to my committee chair at the university (where it was promptly thrown away). Ostensibly I was hurting the students by not forcing them to read material that the other entry level courses were. Realistically I was threatening their profit margin by not using the most up-to-date edition of a 50 year old text.
        • by bhcompy (1877290) on Monday October 25, 2010 @05:09PM (#34017726)
          My college professor for the GE philosophy course I had to take was also the department chair and union president. He said that the other professors were all scumbags and that there is nothing we need in a 150$ textbook that isn't available in a cheap book that may be many years old for the bulk of GE type courses. He also said that charging students for things like Scantron sheets is just another way to punish the students despite all the fees they already pay. To back it up, the only required book was 15$ at Borders(and 0.50 used online) and tests were done on lined paper(for essay) or on an old fashioned circle your answer multiple-choice. Because of his status, no one could threaten him with termination and he'd probably spit in their face if someone tried to. I wish there were more people like him in the college teaching ranks
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by pieisgood (841871)

          I am currently using Rudins' intro to real analysis paper back for my three quarter real analysis course. This book hasn't seen a revision since 1963, it is a MONSTER! This is a book that hates you and hates visual intuition. It also only cost me seven dollars new. Yes, the material hasn't changed and yes the book is the definitive Real Analysis intro book, but I'd be cautious of books that haven't been revised in 50+ years.... That means they're comprehensive, and most likely very DIFFICULT!

          Fun course thou

    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      This will also kill the used book market.

      • by zeugma-amp (139862) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:08PM (#34016866) Homepage

        This will also kill the used book market.

        That's the idea.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        That's a good enough reason for us to stop this before it becomes reality.

        Another good reason are students who share books. This is not at all uncommon if you have a roommate with some of the same courses, but at different hours.
        This will effectively kill this saving too.

        The library argument isn't too persuasive, though, because the libraries should still have the paper version.

        But all in all, this will hit the poorer students the hardest.

    • For a time I ran the ACM chapter at San Francisco State. We collected used textbooks from students and kept them in a library in the CS lab, and would lend them out to members as needed.

      With an e-book system, that type of system probably wouldn't be possible.

  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:44PM (#34016526)

    The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

    This is clearly just an attempt by the textbook marketers to kill the secondhand book sellers.

    As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RealGrouchy (943109)

      The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

      Up here in Canada, there are strict regulations on such photocopying. Professors order a course pack from a copy shop made up of hand-picked chapters from various books, which the students can then pick up, but because of the per-page photocopying license fees [accesscopyright.ca], these often end up costing the student about as much as the original textbook.

      - RG>

    • by vlm (69642)

      The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

      20 years ago I had a EE-type professor whom gave us photocopies of about 2 to 3 pages out of perhaps a hundred books in the field. Yes several hundred pages of photocopies per semester. In his opinion it was within his fair rights use to copy small snippets out of each book for purely educational purposes. We also spent a lot of time doing educational / editorial compare -n- contrast the treatment of class AB amplifier second order harmonic analysis in this book vs that book, etc etc. He also delighted

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

      I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

      • by Macthorpe (960048)

        I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

        Are you sure the way we teach calculus hasn't changed at all in that time?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

          Are you sure the way we teach calculus hasn't changed at all in that time?

          Maybe - it's gotten worse. I didn't truly understand it until I had physics. Math texts are garbage. Except for maybe the IEEE's Calculus Tutorial. That had applications and you actually learned what the hell Calculus was invented for in the first place.

        • by fluch (126140)

          Are you sure the way we teach calculus hasn't changed at all in that time?

          The way we teach calculus has not changed so much that you would need every second year a new revision of a calculus book.

          If a new revision is needed every second year, then there has been something wrong with the text book in the first place or there is something wrong with the publisher or both options apply (and somehow I think the latter is the case).

      • As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

        I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

        Try reading the translated Principia Mathematica. (I won't ask you to go read the Latin)

        http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pm-notation/ [stanford.edu]

        The math itself hasn't changed. The way we write it has. It's like Shakespearian English vs. Modern English with all the variants in between.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:06PM (#34016842) Journal

      This is exactly right. Somehow the fine article proposes "saving the textbook industry" as something we'd actually want to do. The textbook industry adds no value to your education. All value comes from the university. The best thing for everyone, student, professor, parent, or administrator is for the textbook industry to die and be replaced by online, collaborative, peer reviewed textbooks. The textbook publishing industry adds no value, and is nothing but a parasite on the education industry.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Not that they should, but the textbook industry does add quite a bit of value to the academic experience if your instructors just teach from the text, use quizzes provided by the publisher, and only provide their own feedback when there are questions.

        That being said, I'm all for instructors having to actually develop the material for their courses. The problem is that they can claim they don't have time to develop their courses alone because they're teaching so many students because enrollment is up and
    • As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

      I'd wager that any calculus being taught at the undergrad level hasn't changed in the past 50 years, much less 6...

      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:09PM (#34016872) Journal

        Sure it has. Undergrad calculus has gotten a lot simpler in the past 50 years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gstoddart (321705)

          Sure it has. Undergrad calculus has gotten a lot simpler in the past 50 years.

          In what way? Not being flippant, I'm genuinely unsure as to what about calculus has changed in the last 50 years.

          I'm betting my books from 20 years ago still have the exact same stuff in it -- hell, I bet they're still using an edition of Stewart in some places.

          • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Monday October 25, 2010 @06:11PM (#34018570)

            In what way? Not being flippant, I'm genuinely unsure as to what about calculus has changed in the last 50 years.

            I believe the GP was arguing that it's not calculus itself that has gotten easier, but rather the presentation, rigor, etc. in the way it is taught.

            Aside from the use of calculators, mathematical software and such, which is not insignificant, calculus itself is not easier.

            I learned calculus (not too long ago actually) from Tom Apostol's text, which pulls no punches in terms of mathematical rigor and formalism. Not proofs for the sake of proofs, mind you, but formalism that demonstrates the power of calculus and helps you to understand how it works.

            The reason I was taught that way was because I chose to take a calculus sequence intended for math majors, though. At my institution, fifty years ago, everyone learned from a book like Apostol (perhaps another text, dumbed down slightly).

            Today, textbooks are often about case study problems, using your graphing calculator, etc. I'm not arguing that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it has shifted the focus away from rigorous formalism (which most students have more trouble with) and to types of problems and methods of solution that are, on the whole, easier and simpler. The overall content is still there, but the presentation and methodology is, I think, more user-friendly to many students.

    • by icebike (68054)

      The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

      Wait, where did you go to school?

      My professors WROTE many of the texts they used, or the would use the texts of their department buddies, who in turn would use their texts.

      Professors are often the authors, especially in the stable social sciences and arts, and business areas, where not much new happens quickly.

      Etexts are often tied to some form of DRM, which prevents duplication, but also kills off Used Book markets.

      For the most part, the publishers have contrived to prevent used Ebooks from being sold, or

  • Which is nice. Don't let anyone resell their materials from a prior year. The textbook companies will be thrilled!

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:44PM (#34016536) Homepage
    They just want a more effective way to shut used-textbook merchants out of the market so they can more fully exploit their students.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Optimally you won't mind that, everything could end up much cheaper and much more convenient. At my highschool we had sort of similar scheme (though with analogue books obviously) - pay yearly what was at most 1/6th (probably less) the cost of full new set, get all needed books from the library, during the first week / first lesson of each subject (and of course return them at the year end; it was still a better deal than own set & resales). Sure, most of those books was around one decade old, but also

  • Might offer a bit more bulk-buying pricing power, but not sure if I like the eBook aspect.
    Granted, this seems analogous to requiring new purchases.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:45PM (#34016550)

    Book prices will still remain close to $100.
    You'll lose your right to resell your old books.
    Accessibility for us disabled folks will be an artificial extra cost, to satisfy the imaginary property brigade who think text-to-speech isn't a right.

  • Or has that been integrated into "digital piracy" definitions already?
  • by SlayerofGods (682938) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:48PM (#34016588)
    I was forced to pick up a e version of my math textbook for 70 bucks, no option but to do so since the book is tied to the eclass that the collage out sourced it's vitual classroom to. What makes it extra special is the profssor lets us take the final in person with open book... but we're not allowed to have any type of computer. So if we want to actually use the book on the final we're force to print the whole damn thing out. Collage is dumb.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:48PM (#34016594)

    Universities collaborate to produce textbooks (pay the author, an editor, possibly some layout/graphics staff) and then release the finished textbooks under a Creative Commons license (by-sa-nc for example).

    You know, to provide better service and education for their students and society as a whole.

    • BINGO

      This is one of the biggest reasons I use CC and recommend it to EVERYONE I can.

      I also want to get politics out of textbooks and going to a wiki style system of creating "texts" that can be used broadly. The Political Correctness that has infected our educational system is horrible, and it has made it impossibly difficult to write a text books that all the various "interest groups" can agree on is nearly impossible.

      Which means our whole system is doomed, right??

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aol.cTWAINom minus author> on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:50PM (#34016622) Journal

    By the time I was in grad school at GaTech, undergraduate courses were spinning revs every quarter, and the only thing that would change would be the problems. This eliminated the book buy-back market almost entirely, because profs of course would require problems from the book.

    Undergrad level calc has not changed in the last 20 years. There's no reason someone shouldn't be able to use a calc book handed down from a parent or older sibling. Yet, term after term, every student is nearly compelled to spend $140 on a new book.

    It's no wonder our educational system from cradle to PhD is a complete failure. Institutions are too focused on productizing and profiteering rather than growing the world's best talent.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Undergrad level calc has not changed in the last 20 years.

      In terms of what they teach in most forms of undregrad ... is it only 20 years? I got the impression when I took calculus that it might have been way longer than 20 years.

      Now, some books might have gotten better at teaching it, so that's a factor. But, generally speaking, I'd say undergraduate calculus must be pretty stable by now.

      Institutions are too focused on productizing and profiteering rather than growing the world's best talent.

      Sadly, fundin

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:22PM (#34017062) Journal

      The reason they do this, is to get around academic fraud/cheating.

      Which is why textbooks shouldn't have any "work" problems, they should be created and handed out by the Professor/Teacher, as handouts. Perhaps even have several sets that are handed out and updated each semester by the publisher. Texts remain the same, but there is a complimentary handout/workbook that contains all the problems.

      That would be too easy.

      • by IICV (652597) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:44PM (#34017388)

        How about we stop caring if students just copy the right answer from somewhere on their homework? It's a participation grade anyway - the goal of homework isn't for the student to take some questions home and return one day with the answer (that's what grad school is for), the goal is for the student to spend some time thinking about the problems and trying to work them out; ideally successfully but the important part is the thinking and working, not having a correct answer. If the student really wants to know what the solutions are and how to work them out, they'll come in to discussion section or office hours (or lecture!).

        And if the student is the sort of person who just copies the right answers from somewhere, then he's fucked for the quizzes, midterms and finals anyway.

        Basically, we care waaaay too much about whether or not people have correct answers on homework. It's like grading a weight training class on how far up people can lift their weights, and then complaining that some people use a crane - that's your own damn fault for losing sight of the fact that the metric is not the goal in and of itself. Those people will fail during the final anyway (when you have to wrestle a grizzly bear).

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:51PM (#34016626) Homepage Journal
    Has the cost of paper and shipping gone up substantially in the past few years? If not, I don't see how ebooks will amount to some sort of major cost savings for a textbook manufacturer. All other costs are the same in an ebook. As almost everybody else in this thread has already deduced, this is more about shutting out the used book market.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by themightythor (673485)

      I don't know about paper, but I'd guess that shipping prices are highly correlated to the price of diesel. And, as you can see here [eia.gov], it's about triple what it was 10 years ago. That cost isn't just factored in to getting the book from the distributor to the store where you buy it, but in every step of the manufacturing process where something has to be moved from one place to another. And it's not like business to just eat those costs, so they pass them on to you.

      Now imagine if the entire process of maki

    • Has the cost of paper and shipping gone up substantially in the past few years?

      Yes, the cost of printing books (which isn't just the cost of paper) has been going up faster than the general rate of inflation for quite some time.

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:51PM (#34016630) Journal

    Is that why the prices are gargantuan compared to other books?

    You know what the difference usually is between the fourth and fifth edition of a textbook is? A little bit of reformatting, and a couple extra anecdotes. Yet the professors are told that they need to use the new material and they force it down on the students so that someone who wrote a book 5 years ago gets some income for the next 10 years, or maybe its the publishers, I don't know.

    Point is - they set up the used book stores in colleges for a reason, so you could re-use text books. In some fields this has worked well, but in other fields, authors have just started to rehash their books to make money.

    In all honesty - education material should not be privatized, their shouldn't be an issue with digital piracy because it should all be made publicly available. Wanting to LEARN shouldn't come with a cost. When I pay money to a college or university its for the professor's time, who is an expert in the field and can answer any questions the textbooks can't. It also covers the upkeep of the infrastructure. The only cost incurred with a textbook should be the ones manufacturing the book.

    Education as a money making industry sickens me a little.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      You know what the difference usually is between the fourth and fifth edition of a textbook is? A little bit of reformatting, and a couple extra anecdotes. Yet the professors are told that they need to use the new material and they force it down on the students so that someone who wrote a book 5 years ago gets some income for the next 10 years, or maybe its the publishers, I don't know.

      Back when I went to school, the teachers started by handing out errata sheets we could insert into our books if we bought an

    • by yankpop (931224) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:59PM (#34017600)

      Yet the professors are told that they need to use the new material and they force it down on the students ...

      I'm not interested in forcing a new textbook on my students, and I'm quite happy to allow them to use an older edition. The problem is that those older editions become harder and harder to find as time passes. After a semester or two it doesn't matter if I force the students to use the newest edition, because only the newest edition is available.

      As many others have suggested, profs could be providing their own reading as pdfs. Which I plan to do, eventually, when I have the time. But since this kind of activity isn't recognized as scholarly work unless it actually gets published by an actual publishing company, I can't afford the time, at least until I get tenure.

  • Bullshit... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebaz (453974) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:53PM (#34016654)

    We are not paying all that money just for the textbook material, we are paying for the knowledge of the professors, and the shared experience with other people. Putting additional restrictions on the materials themselves for profit goes against the entire ethos of open information sharing, which is the cornerstone of university research.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darinbob (1142669)
      Here's some interesting notes that kids may not realize yet:

      - When the batteries are dead and the local bookstore is closed, paper books can still be read.
      - You don't have to wait for the publisher to remove the bugs in your textbooks, you can just use Raid.
      - If you spill bear on your book you can let it dry out and it will still be readable.
      - Ten or twenty years from now your ebooks will be unreadable, but you'll still be able to pull an old textbook off the shelf to look something up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AltairDusk (1757788)

        - If you spill bear on your book you can let it dry out and it will still be readable.

        At that point I'd be more worried about being mauled by the bear!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Cwix (1671282)

        - If you spill bear on your book you can let it dry out and it will still be readable.

        I think that only happens in taxidermy classes.

  • by garcia (6573) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:54PM (#34016664) Homepage

    I attend an online university for my masters program. As part of this program, because it is new, they offered a pilot whereby students enrolled from the outset would receive free e-books. Being that I am poor (single income, one child and a SAHM) I welcomed this offer.

    The software used is miserable to operate (slow, buggy, required me to sit on with their tech support for over an hour to resolve an upgrade issue). It takes upwards of 15 minute to print a single chapter because it adds text with your name and e-mail address assigned to the account (for DRM ) to every page.

    While I am grateful for the free books, if I had the choice between the two I'd definitely go hardcover. The student should be able to make the choice between the two mediums, not the school regardless of whatever their motivation is.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      It takes upwards of 15 minute to print a single chapter because it adds text with your name and e-mail address assigned to the account (for DRM ) to every page.

      Wow. I wonder if they have any idea how easy it is to dump postscript output to a file, run it through sed, and produce a clean document.

    • by vlm (69642)

      It takes upwards of 15 minute to print a single chapter

      Kind of misses the point of an ebook, making it more of a publish yourself at home. The other issue, is unless you get ink and paper for free (aka printing it at work) a hardcover will probably be cheaper.

  • by Americium (1343605) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:54PM (#34016680)

    Or perhaps maybe give out a grant to write a textbook. Open textbooks for freshmen level classes should be possible, and is being worked on. It's ridiculous making freshmen pay $200 for a physics textbook, that IMHO is worse than the one I paid $80 for 10 years ago.

    There are about 400 students in the 100 level physics classes at my school. That's $80,000 for just 1 year of books, in one subject, only freshmen level, at one university.

    So obviously it's millions per year per subject nationwide. Don't you think for a couple million we could get someone to write a free textbook, and then we can save millions year after year.

    It's almost as insane as paying so much for journal subscriptions, instead of switching to open publications.

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:55PM (#34016688) Homepage Journal
    e-Books are generally DRM-controlled to the extent that students can't sell them as used textbooks. This actually increases the price over paper books in most situations.
    • by sxeraverx (962068)

      Clearly you haven't been to college in a while. The resale value of textbooks is next-to-nil. Bookstores will routinely buy back books at a quarter of the price you paid for them (if you were fortunate enough to be able to buy the used version), and then resell them at their original price. I understand a "brokerage fee", but what college bookstores do is pretty exorbitant.

      And a new edition screws over folks on both sides of the split: people have to buy new books as used ones aren't available, but at the s

  • by hachete (473378) on Monday October 25, 2010 @03:58PM (#34016726) Homepage Journal

    No way is anyone going to be *buying* any books. You'll be renting it.

  • some professors get kickbacks from book sales and they seem to be ones who are the ones who like to find ways to force you to buy them for that class.

    • by sxeraverx (962068)

      What do you base this on?

      My quantum mechanics professor writes the textbook for his class (and probably what amounts to many others at other universities). His cut of the $100-$150 (depending on source) book is $5 (which he graciously offered to refund us if we weren't happy with it).

      And that's not kickbacks, that's royalties. Now, I'm operating under the assumption this theoretical kickback per copy is less than the royalties. It wouldn't make any sense otherwise. At a theoretical maximum per copy of $5 pe

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:00PM (#34016764)
    Considering that college tuition (something that the college has even greater control over) is one of the few things to increase in price faster than textbooks, I see this as being a really great idea.
    Actually, I think this is in part that the colleges are upset that the money that goes to textbooks doesn't go to them. They obviously don't care about how much the cost goes up, just look at tuition. What the college administrators care about is that the parents and students see this steady increase. If they can move this into a fee that is paid right along with tuition, they can hide this cost and get rid of one of the sources of complaint.
  • Why not work with the local "bookstore" to have available for a semester's rent an e-reader (kindle, iPad, Nook, etc) pre-loaded with all of your books? With some additional coverage for insurance for lost/stolen/broken devices. Nice for the students to just submit their course listing to the bookstore before the semester break and come back and get all of your "books" for roughly the same price (or cheaper if the e-versions would actually be reasonably priced...lol) as buying the hardcopy. The extra bo
  • Right to Read (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:05PM (#34016836)

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

    That crazy kooky Stallman. What nonsense fearmongering will he rant about next?

  • by bieber (998013) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:08PM (#34016868)
    This is ludicrous. I'm a little over halfway through my CS degree, and I've generally managed to avoid buying textbooks (picked up probably three or four the entire time I've been attending classes) because, well, pretty much anything I could possibly need to learn from a textbook is already available for free online anyways, and its saved me easily thousands of dollars. Now schools are talking about simultaneously taking away students' ability to seek out alternative sources of information and forcing intrusive DRM technologies on them? Thank God I'll be graduated before this gets a chance to become commonplace.

    And before replies start pouring in about how I'm cheating myself and my grades will suffer...you're wrong. I'm consistently making 'A's in my classes, book or no book.
  • Free the textbooks (Score:2, Informative)

    by jirka (1164)

    Or of course, they could just use free (as in freedom and price) CC licensed textbooks. I wrote two such undergraduate textbooks:

    http://www.jirka.org/ra/ [jirka.org]
    http://www.jirka.org/diffyqs/ [jirka.org]

    That should save some money. Both are classes where a traditional textbook is $100 or so

  • At OSU (Score:4, Informative)

    by lavagolemking (1352431) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:12PM (#34016898)

    Professors here at Ohio State have a variety of ways to deal with secondhand book sales. Some textbooks here are only available in looseleaf form so they cannot be sold back. Many are "OSU Edition" copies, to ensure they cannot be sold online; to book stores in other regions; or at all after 1--2 years once the publisher comes out with the next edition. Barns & Noble, the "official" OSU bookstore [bncollege.com] has a program called "textbook rental" to curb resale of used textbooks. Then, one of the worst models is in the Physics department [ohio-state.edu]; they have an agreement with the publishers and a company called WebAssign [webassign.net], where although you can buy a used copy of a textbook, only the new ones have a "product key" which you need to do your (required) online homework.

    Under none of these circumstances do professors pay anything for students, and (for obvious) reasons professors get the materials for free and most don't have a clue what the books cost until a student tells them (which they ignore). I can't say I'm surprised by any of this. Publishers make enormous profits by revising textbooks and requiring newer versions, and because students (who have to buy the books) don't have a choice. All the while, these new techniques are being upheld as "cost saving" and "convenient" for students. Consumer choice and the free market at work I guess.

    To the hell with online textbooks!

  • I had one year where I went to college and my books cost more (1200$) than my tuition (900$).

    Students get swindled by booksellers, particularly campus ones. The markup is outrageous. Coming up with a new "version" of a book is all about screwing the used book market. eBooks is just another way to screw students for more money.

    If the government wanted to reduce education costs, and make university/college more available to people, they should take a long hard look at some of the common practices that are pre

  • You know you're getting screwed. They know they're screwing you. The people who would be in a position to provide oversight knows screwing is taking place. But nobody does a goddamn thing to stop it! It's just taken to be a natural part of the order of the world like death and taxes.

    Education is this beautiful thing that's been corrupted into nothing more than a giant fucking con. And it never ends. Just more fresh meat cycled through the grifter's paradise.

  • If it's good enough for MIT, ought to be good enough for everyone.
    http://ocw.mit.edu/about/ [mit.edu]
    http://www.opensourcetext.org/ [opensourcetext.org]
    (and many other references)

  • by supersloshy (1273442) on Monday October 25, 2010 @04:17PM (#34016954)

    ...requiring students to "buy" online books? What the crap? You don't buy the book, you license it (which this video explains [youtube.com] in a hilarious way). Students would have to use "approved" book readers to read these books. Students couldn't lend their books to other students. Students couldn't save money by buying used books. Students can't read these books without looking at a screen, and much less without a working computer (power outage, anyone?). This is by no means a good idea; maybe it would be for the book authors/publishers, but nobody else.

  • The one thing that always bothered me about students selling their textbooks after completing the course it that this action basically says "I took this class because the degree required it, and I will never have the need to recall this information for the rest of my days." Is this a cynical view, or just the practical reality? How many out there kept their textbooks and every once in awhile reference them or give them a good skim to refresh their knowledge?

    In reference to e-textbooks I fear that DRM and/o
  • "OK, guys. The material hasn't changed much this year, just the activation codes."

  • A downside to expensive books, renting textbooks, long textbooks, and now DRM ebooks is that students will just return them or not even have access to them after finishing a class. This is VERY BAD for education. For one, students should keep their calculus book throughout their college time. Otherwise you can't look up things you'll need later. Courses are not independent islands. You need what you've learned previously, and unless you are a genius and memorized everything ...

    We need to push for eithe

  • Going to college has become a giant, legal racket for a lot of people. Professors make a lot of money for "teaching," publishers make tons of money on huge markups and edition changes that may only change a word or two or change the chapter order, and finally the Sallie Mae's of the world make huge money on brokering student loans. Personally, I am sick of it - I went to college and it did precisely dick for me. I got good grades and I am no further ahead than a colleague who did not go at all. In fact,
  • Even as an ebook fan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joe Tie. (567096) on Monday October 25, 2010 @07:46PM (#34019510)
    I think I'd be annoyed by this. I prefer ebooks for the most part. To the point where I'll often simply pass on reading a book if there's no digital version available. But only if it's a work of fiction. For something that's going to be used as study material, I really can't imagine using them at this point. Ebook readers, whether stand alone units on or a computer, are great for going one page forward or one page back. But just terrible for the kind of rapid skimming and flipping that I usually do with textbooks.
  • by cervo (626632) on Monday October 25, 2010 @09:50PM (#34020408) Journal
    From what I have seen, many of these schemes result in keeping the books for the semester and then losing access at the end. Or you access the book using their proprietary software and then pay a lot more (even more than a print book sometimes) to get permanent access using their proprietary software. And once they abandon that platform you are screwed. I still have all my undergrad textbooks from 10 years ago in computer science/mathematics (except for duplicate ones, ie I tossed the 7th edition of calculus when I got the 8th edition....). And I kept a few of the more interesting general education courses (ie Psychology 101's book). Now, if I was on some proprietary system, I would not have access to those texts anymore. And in some cases, ie one of my grad classes used Introduction to Algorithms by Corman, I would have had to buy the book again while now I didn't. Now Corman has a new edition....but really it is not that different except for a few changes regarding parallel algorithms....

    Basically this is a way to kill the used book market. Make sure you have to rent your book every semester. And make sure if years later you go back to school, you will need to buy the book again aka Zune style.

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