By Bradley K. Martin
Roger H. Tatarian Chair in Journalism
One solution to the college textbook racket, as Rory Appleton notes, is for teachers to choose less costly alternatives to the publishers’ constant offerings of new editions.
In each of my two spring MCJ courses, at least one assigned book is available for one penny plus shipping charges from an online bookseller working through Amazon.
One of those volumes is the fourth edition of a textbook that’s now in its fifth edition. I decided students could do without the updates, especially since I was not having them read every chapter. The other is a book that’s now out of print completely but shouldn’t be. I checked on the book your article used as a horrible example: the $118.75 “Mastering Sociology.”
A quick online check finds no one offering earlier editions of that book for sale for a few bucks, much less for a penny. Why? What has become of all the copies of those earlier editions?
Are the publishers buying up all the old ones and shredding them so that compassionate professors can’t assign them and thrifty students can’t buy them?
After all, how much has the field of sociology changed since the previous edition or, for that matter, in the last decade or two?
How many other similar situations exist regarding introductory texts?
Here’s an in-depth reporting challenge for Mr. Appleton or anyone else who cares to dig into the matter.
Click here to read the article Mr. Martin is referring to.