Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Cost of Textbooks

The University of Chicago Bookstore has asked for textbook requests for the fall quarter by the middle of next month instead of during the summer as in past years. The reasoning: A burgeoning used textbook market. If the bookstore knows what books faculty will use in the fall, they can offer higher prices to pay for used books at the end of the spring quarter.

This is just an indication of the problems of higher textbook costs. CALPIRG has a recent extensive report on this topic. Textbook costs add to already spiraling increases in tuition and other college expenses.

In addition, I have more griping than usual about buying the textbook from students in my class though the book, Homer and Selman's Computability and Complexity Theory lists new for $50, under even the average used price mentioned in the CALPIRG report.

What should I do as a faculty member? Should professors strive to reuse the same textbook each year so student's can buy and sell used versions to keep their costs down? That can lead to courses getting stale very fast.

Or should I even forgo textbooks completely and rely on less organized material freely available on the internet? I already do this for graduate courses where strong up-to-date textbooks simply do not exist.

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