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Ad-supported Textbooks Are Here 192

prostoalex writes "Talk to any student about the price of the college textbooks, and you're likely to hear similar complaints about the cost of the textbooks, the rip-off buyout prices at local college bookstores and insidious publishers who keep changing editions every few years just to change the page numbers and kill off the used books market. Freeload Press, says the New York Times, will distribute ad-supported electronic textbooks to students of 38 universities. However, it seems that neither professors neither New York Times are impressed with the quality of titles so far: 'The reading difficulty is created by Freeload's use of PDF images, which retain the printed page's layout without reformatting. Navigating around a single superwide, supertall page requires lots of clicking and zooming and patience. The company will soon use improved software that can automatically adjust the text so it is more legible, said Tom Duran, a founder of Freeload Press and its chief executive.'"
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Ad-supported Textbooks Are Here

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  • lazy professors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by legoburner ( 702695 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:39AM (#15988774) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how long it will take for a lazy professor to include an advert in a test, or how many of the stupider students learn the adverts. I hope they have some standards to make the adverts very different to the text and not like a large number of magazines which print adverts that look a little like articles.
    • by BakaHoushi ( 786009 ) <Goss,Sean&gmail,com> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @09:10AM (#15989179) Homepage
      History 101, chapter 57, American Revolution

      "...due to a pounding headache, General Washington couldn't think well enough to keep his troops in line. Luckily, a medic delivered to him new TYLENOL FAST ACTING GEL CAPLETS, the soothing action of which cleared his head in just minutes, letting him order his troops properly, and ensuring the victory for the Americans.

      Tylenol: Fast acting strength, protecting America from the British since 1776"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by john82 ( 68332 )
        Or perhaps a generous infusion of Exxon "advertising" allows one to focus less on certain pesky environmental (oil spills) and economic (profiteering) issues?
    • This will lead down the road to textbooks becoming women's magazines like O, where there is no real table of contents. They'll just have subjects on the cover like:
      Evolution - Fact or Fiction?
      Genes - RNA vs. DNA Where do they fit in?
      Cloning - Is it right for you?

      And then you have to flip through the book seeing ads as you go because there is no page number associated with the sensational headline.
  • great! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:40AM (#15988775) Homepage
    The company will soon use improved software that can automatically adjust the text so it is more legible, said Tom Duran, a founder of Freeload Press and its chief executive.'

    Does it also automatically adjust the text to reflect new information received from the Ministry of Truth?
    • Does it also automatically adjust the text to reflect new information received from the Ministry of Truth?

      The text is true. The text has always been true.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AnyoneEB ( 574727 )
      Uh, how does that relate to the software being able to change the font size/page layout? The feature being suggested sounds more like a web browser's ability adjust the layout when you resize the window.
  • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:42AM (#15988782)
    This doesn't solve the original problem of the textbooks being expensive in the first place. If we simply throw money funding towards higher education, and say, "No!" to newer books that don't give us anything useful, problem solved.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:35AM (#15988889)

      I work for a (UK) textbook publisher which also sells its textbooks in the US.

      Here's why US textbooks are so expensive:

      In the US, textbooks are frequently published in hardback format. While a hardback costs very little more to actually produce (about $3 dollars more than a paperback), you can sell them for almost twice the cost of a paperback version because the market allows it.

      In the UK, textbooks are almost always paperback (we sell a few hardback copies as well in the UK, but mainly to professors who will be using the book extensively for several years, and so want something very durable).

      So why don't US textbook publishers publish in paperback? The traditional way (in both the US and the UK) to get a textbook adopted by a professor teaching a course (and hence secure sales from all of his/her students - sometimes up to 500 individuals - and these adoptions frequently last for 2-3 years-worth of students because professors, like all humans, are allergic to change) is to have a Sales Rep visit every single professor teaching a relevant course and try to convince them to buy it. In the UK that's not too expensive - the UK is fairly small and urban centres (and hence universities) aren't too far apart, so few Reps are needed and travel costs are low. The US is huge and urban centres (and hence universities) are separated by huge distances. Lots of Reps are needed and travel costs are higher becuase of the larger distances.

      The upshot is that US textbook publishers mainly publish in hardback format (usually about twice the price of a paperback, but for a very small increase in production costs) in order to claw back some of the costs of these Sales Reps. In the UK, the market wouldn't stand for that - paperback textbooks at paperback prices are the norm, and besides the Sales Rep costs that need to be paid for are much much smaller, as mentioned above.

      When the company I work for started selling one of our latest (paperback) textbooks in the US, we were slaughtering the (hardback) opposition on price (and our textbook is much better, natch!). We weren't using the expensive Sales-Reps-travelling-the-country method to get adoptions, we were using other much cheaper (and obviously not-to-be-disclosed-here) methods to promote the book. The professors loved the book for the quality of its content, and the students love the price.

      I'm sure US textbook publishers will wise up at some point soon (some probably already are - I only really know about the academic discipline that the company I work for publishes in) but until then we'll keep getting those valuable adoptions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by eggoeater ( 704775 )
        We weren't using the expensive Sales-Reps-travelling-the-country method to get adoptions, we were using other much cheaper (and obviously not-to-be-disclosed-here) methods to promote the book.

        You mean like mailing a copy and then calling them?


      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by zlogic ( 892404 )
        Well, in Russia a lot of hardback textbooks cost about $1-$2, with the exception of about $15 for really large or well-made ones. What's more, a lot of technical books (such as O'Reilly, Wrox) cost two to three times cheaper than the original English version. And they're all legal!
        • by ZiakII ( 829432 )
          Well, in Russia a lot of hardback textbooks cost about $1-$2, with the exception of about $15 for really large or well-made ones. What's more, a lot of technical books (such as O'Reilly, Wrox) cost two to three times cheaper than the original English version. And they're all legal!

          No kidding I often buy my text books from ebay because usally you can get the India version (which say not to be sold in the US) for about 1/20 of the price granted its a paperback and printed on newspaper like paper but hell,
      • by kerrbear ( 163235 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:45AM (#15989129)

        In the UK, the market wouldn't stand for that - paperback textbooks at paperback prices are the norm

        Can I just say, this makes porting the books around a hekuva lot eaiser too because they are lighter. The Chinese do it even one better. They break up their course books into seperate booklets, all in paperback so you are not carrying around an entire years worth of material with each book! This can make your backback about ten times lighter. Now, of course, a decent eletronic format could solve the rest of the weight problem. But it doesn't look like this is it.

      • by geobeck ( 924637 )

        I'm headed back to school in another two weeks. The technical institution where I'll be studying has another solution to the problem of expensive textbooks: the instructors roll their own.

        I'm taking a one-year, condensed program, with about two dozen individual courses, and I have to buy half a dozen textbooks, total cost to me: under $1000. For the rest, the instructors have compiled course notes based on their own training and experience. (All of the instructors in this program are currently employed

      • by rbrander ( 73222 )
        The British poster who works in the industry is the most useful post on this topic so far. Combined with the backing of the Russian poster, we seem to have the following conclusions:

        1) The marginal production cost of the product is a few dollars for paperback, several for hardback.

        2) The base production cost varies - books on .NET that only sell for a few years and take $100K in salaries to produce may need many dollars per book to defray that cost unless they can grab the whole market, but books that have
        • by Millenniumman ( 924859 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @11:38AM (#15989648)
          The prices aren't high because of marketing, they are high because they can be. If a course requires a book, then students have to buy it. The books compete to be used in courses, but after that they must be used by the students. If everyone used the same book, prices would be astronomical.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rbrander ( 73222 )
            >The prices aren't high because of marketing

            Well, "sez you" ... I was working from the post of the one guy who claims to work in the business.

            >they are high because they can be.

            I *think* you are agreeing with me. Prices CAN'T be high in a free market because a competing author and publisher will produce a book of equal quality and be happy with a 10% profit instead of 200%. So the only way for "because they can be" to be true would imply market failure.

            If the educators forcing you to use the product
            • These companies aren't selling the books to students, who pay the high prices, but to professors. The price of the book is one of the "features", and one that professors may or may not care about. The market is working very well for the people the publishers are selling the books to, as they get the books for free. Cartels only exist in the sense that students have no choice in a given course, and these cartels are created by the professors, not the publishers.
              • Actually, the university program should be such that you CAN choose your own books. That is what you are supposed to be educated for in the first place, finding and selecting your information. Actually I was once so much frustrated by a course (professor showed sheets with chemical reactions, you were not allowed to copy them, only write them down from the screen), that I decided to just skip the course and learn the same material from textbooks about the subject that were in the library. A course should id
        • 'The explanation certainly sounds a little simplistic - heck, almost "communistic". By which I mean, that the free-market process of having many textbook products to choose from, and marketers that make all options known to the professor/customers, is SUPPOSED to result in top products for rock-bottom price"

          The reason for this is simple. Professors don't look at the price. They are given free copies by the publisher. They don't have to pay for the book, so they don't care what it costs. Likewise, they d
          • The reason for this is simple. Professors don't look at the price. They are given free copies by the publisher. They don't have to pay for the book, so they don't care what it costs. Likewise, they dont care if a new, completely pointless edition is released, because that just means the publisher sends them a fancy new replacement book.

            That's not exactly the whole story. Textbook publishers don't ship old editions of the textbook, so professors have to choose the most recent version of the book or students

      • My mathematics professor told stories of expensive junkets and lavish gifts textbook publishers bestowed upon her. She was on the curriculum committee which chose the textbooks for the department. Hotel rooms, wine, food all at no cost. For the larger textbook companies that were subsidiaries of major publishers would send her any book she requested, math-related or not from their extensive catalogs. US textbook publishers spend big bucks wooing professors to buy their books and update new editions frequent
    • You probably were already implying this, but let me restate: Not all new books don't give something useful!

      Education is something that is actually advancing, be it slowly. It's important to have access to new books, for example something that integrates new insight into the material, or is based on new knowledge on how students can learn better. I, for example, learned mechanics from a book that said in the introduction that 'the SI system will probably not be very popular'. So our class ended up to spend

  • by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:45AM (#15988792)
    ``Hey, I've got an ebook that is difficult to read, let's sell it to students. We'll fix the readability problems later.''

    The world is in serious need of open textbooks to put an end to the ripping off of students. This problem existed 30 years ago and so far nothing has been done to prevent the publishers making education more expensive than it need be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AnyoneEB ( 574727 )
      The list of completed books is pretty small, but Wikibooks [wikibooks.org] is working on open textbooks. I see they even have PDF version of some of their books. Maybe at some point, it will be reasonable for a professor to use one of those. Then again, it seems like the only time when professors really absolutely require a book is when they assign homework out of it. In that format, it is hard to make the instructor's solution manual difficult to obtain. :)
  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:55AM (#15988814)
    In college, I always find older editions of books on the internet and save myself a ton of money. For instance, during summer semester, I took the 7th edition psychology textbook instead of the 8th edition. An 8 edition new would have cost me $115, a used one $95 at the campus bookstore. The 7th edition, brand new (sealed) with shipping cost me $9.95. For a lot of classes, that racks up to serious savings. And the only difference is the cover and the color of the layout, all the content is the same. I've seen this where with numerous books which stayed the same content wise for over 6 editions in the row, changing the cover and perhaps the layout just to make it seem different. I compared a old english college textbook (1992) and the new version and all they did was swap 3 out of the 21 essays. That's it.

    A word of caution, old editions are a bitch in the rare case that your teacher is a stickler for "homework" problems and collects them (this is more in the lower college classes and a problem if old edition pages don't match up just right and they tend to jumble problems around) and your school library doesn't lend out the new version of the book. It's best to attend the first couple days of class and determine if buying a book at all is necessary (some professors essentially ignore the book for all pratical purpose and test you on their lectures). I can't tell how many times I went to class just to find out that the book is a big waste of money. Especially true if the class is a requirement and you don't give two shits about it.

    I even used completely different texts (titles) in Math course where I just find that I prefer one author over another without problems.
  • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:56AM (#15988815) Homepage
    I teach in a university in the UK and I must say that I'm not convinced that electronic books are the best way of reading around a subject for degree-level study. When I'm trying to learn about something that is very new to me, my preferred approach is to work with two or three books which cover the topic. I find the relevant section in each book and keep all the books open at the appropriate pages on the desk in front of me. After a while, I'll normally find that one of the books is easiest for me to understand, so I will focus on that one but refer to the others when I need clarification. If one of the books is not helping at all, I make another trip to the shelves to find something else and see what that can contribute.

    I've never been able to replicate this "system" using electronic means and I tend not to try any more. However, my students never seem to try to use books in this way. If they want to find out about something, they type a phrase into Google and then start picking through the thousands of hits they inevitably get (I teach computing). Typically they will give up quickly because the amount of information coming back is overwhelming, but even if they do find something, I'm sure they struggle because it's very hard to take in a lot of information when you're reading it off a screen (I believe that this is less true if you already know something about a topic). Ironically, the only complaint we regularly get about our classes is that the library is not helpful, even though we have bought literally hundreds of titles in the last couple of years. We now believe that most of our new students have never used a library before they come to the university, so we're going to actually show them how we go about learning new things using books. Not sure how we're going to do that!

    I think I've rambled off the topic a bit here; I think my point is that I would discourage my students from buying electronic books in general. As a university lecturer, I think it's my responsibility to: (a) Recommend the minimum possible number of books for purchase (usually one per module); (b) Ensure that there is a good variety of relevant books in the library; (c) Encourage my students to actually use the library when their Googling fails them.
    • by Baavgai ( 598847 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:38AM (#15988896) Homepage
      For those of us who grew up with nice, comfortable, dead trees, nothing will every really replace the feeling of hefting them.

      However, younger folks seem far more at comfortable with reading from a screen. Don't assume that the media will necessarily be an issue for most new students. The issue is primarily one of format.

      If an electronic resource is presented in such a way as to be easily navigated, then it is superior to it's printed counterpart in may ways. Being able to search an entire book with a click is invaluable.

      I have PDF and print versions of many technically references. The PDFs get opened first at which point the paper is usually only for browsing.
      • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:04AM (#15988948) Homepage
        I have PDF and print versions of many technically references. The PDFs get opened first at which point the paper is usually only for browsing.

        I'm 43 and I recognize that I have grown up with books and that I am comfortable using them. However, I've been playing around with computers for more than half of my life and I've been on the web since the start, so I'm used to reading stuff off a screen. My views on paper vs screen are based somewhat on the sheer shallowness of my students' approach to learning. I can't help feeling that they don't concentrate enough when they are trying to get information from a screen. It's unusual to see a student spend a significant time staring at a document on a screen, for instance. They tend to search for something else before they will scroll through the document they have already opened. On the other hand of course, they have no idea how to get information from a book.

        I'm aware that much of what I'm saying is impressionistic - I've certainly never measured any of this stuff - but introducing my students to another source (ie books) must be better than what they are doing now.
        • by Baavgai ( 598847 )
          I can't help feeling that they don't concentrate enough when they are trying to get information from a screen.

          Ah! This I understand, and agree. I don't see that the media of presentation will have any real impact on these practices. You're dealing with behaviors deeply ingrained, fed by many factors. Personally, I blame cell phones... ;)

          Of course, being forced to thoroughly read information in an electronic format could help develop that concentration. Ok, wishful thinking, but still.

          I'm 37, btw. I do
        • by Nimey ( 114278 )
          FWIW, I've had the most success with a 100x43 (800x600 @85 Hz framebuffer with Terminus font) terminal reading an HTML E-book with lynx. Very readable.
      • If an electronic resource is presented in such a way as to be easily navigated, then it is superior to it's printed counterpart in may ways. Being able to search an entire book with a click is invaluable.

        Agreed, but as you mentioned, there's nothing like the heft and feel of a real paper hardback (with included post-it notes, highlighting, bookmarks and scribbling of course). People that truly know the contents and subject matter of a particular reference book usually can flip to the appropriate page in
      • by symbolic ( 11752 )
        I have PDF and print versions of many technically references. The PDFs get opened first at which point the paper is usually only for browsing.

        One thing to keep in mind with respect to PDF...since it is an electronic format, there are means available to enforce certain licensing restrictions...up to and including "phoning home" whenever the document is opened/read/whatever. I don't say this to deride the PDF format, because it has proven very useful. People should be aware, however, of the various ways that
      • For those of us who grew up with nice, comfortable, dead trees, nothing will every really replace the feeling of hefting them.

        True, but shoulder-replacement surgery might come close... ouch... Now I know I'm too old to have gone back to school.

        Calc II - 15 lbs.
        Discrete Math I - 20 lbs.
        Object Oriented Programming #1- 9 lbs
        Object Oriented Programming #2- 6 lbs
        Notebooks, calculators, etc... - 5 lbs.
        Walking with a tilt the rest of your bloody natural life: priceless.
      • I find that the major contributing factor to the uselessness of online print is that, with my CRT, reading a book off my screen is like staring at a light-bulb for hours. In High School the CRTs would also give me refresh-headaches. The major problem I have with PDFs is that I can't change the color of the background or the text color or both to make it more comfortable for my eyes. Every single website, document, PDF, ebook, and even information dialogue assumes that the screen is EXACTLY LIKE THE PRINT WO
    • We now believe that most of our new students have never used a library before they come to the university, so we're going to actually show them how we go about learning new things using books. Not sure how we're going to do that!

      Perhaps you can get some inspiration from Adler and Van Doren's _How To Read a Book_? I read it after finishing my master's, and believe that it would have helped to read parts of it at the beginning instead.

      • by ctid ( 449118 )
        Thanks very much for this recommendation. I've had a look at the reviews on Amazon and I've ordered a couple of copies for the library at work.
      • Adler and Van Doren's _How To Read a Book_?

        You know, I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about a book called "How to Read a book" just makes me want to laugh my ass off...
    • I do think that many older people lack sufficient internet skills though. There is a lot of good information on the internet, especially about IT. Many books are available online from many brilliant authors. Electronic form also has a lot of advantages, such as easy searching and copying of code. Within the company I am known for finding almost any information needed on the internet. My reading speed and handling of google as well as knowing where to search (standard bodies etc) makes sure that most of the
    • Don't blame the students for not having used a library prior to university. Highschools aren't demanding it. Nor are they demanding anything more than the most cursory of reference lists -- usually a list of untitled URLs, or even better, "References: Google search term '$terms'". Footnotes or in-line citations are not to be spoken of. It's silly. What the hell are they teaching in English these days? I've TA'd the 100-level course in the undergraduate program for the past 3 years while completing my
    • wikipedia.org Yes yes I know it has it's problems but if you have no idea what something is like say Ruby On Rails [wikipedia.org] it's a great starting place and usually has references to other articles where you can find more information. Plus if it is about some non controversial subject say what is IPv6 it's probably going to be the easiest up to date and most accurate place to find out the information.
    • I like having pdf versions of my textbooks, regardless of whether I buy the dead tree version or not. Physical books are much better for reading large sections of, especially the first time through, but ebooks are much better for reference. There's no search function in cellulose ;).
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:03AM (#15988830)
    Interesting that it's seen as a source of cost cutting in the US.

    Still. Be happy. The world is happy to continue loaning you the money needed to buy their products. Don't you worry yourself about paying it back.

     
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:12AM (#15988842) Journal
    Professors, however, are not blind to the shocking prices of new textbooks. Nor are they deaf to the complaining voices of their students. They know that students increasingly buy used textbooks, and that this in turn affects the prices on new texts that sit unsold on the shelves.
    Riiiight...

    There's two different people selling books:
    Publisher ---> College Book Store
    College Book Store ---> Student

    If the publisher is losing sales to used books, the book store could easily absorb any publisher price hike, considering that the book store is selling the used texts and is part of the publisher's problem.

    My guess is that being in the textbook business is like being a utility company. You get to ignore normal market dynamics and act as if your minimum profit margin is enshrined in law.

    There's really no incentive for anyone other than the student to act in a rational manner.
  • by IICV ( 652597 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:28AM (#15988872)
    Undergraduate textbooks are nothing more than a scam. Calculus, physics, chemistry and biology on such a basic level have not changed significantly in the past decade; why do I have to buy books which were printed this year?

    Oh, right, because the problems that are assigned out of the book get shuffled every printing by magical pixies. Literally shuffled; in one of my recent classes, the professor would assign the (optional) homework out of the seventh edition of the text, but also had a list of where the exact same problems were in the sixth and fifth. I checked with one of the older editions in the library, and aside from the color scheme this was the only change. The explanations were all the same, which is a good thing since I'd hate to think our fundamental understanding of the principles of vector calculus had changed so quickly.

    I've actually had a couple professors talk about this; apparently, such decisions are usually made by the department heads, and the people teaching the class just go with it - not that it's just the higher-ups getting kickbacks. Publishers drop old editions like hot potatos; in another of my classes, the professor refused to move on to the sixth edition and taught out of the fifth, because apparently they'd swapped some of the chapters around and he didn't want to deal with it. Even though the sixth edition had been released that same year, people had so much trouble finding copies of it he eventually gave up and published an equivalence guide. This was in a course where the material didn't quite need to be taught in order, which is probably why they didn't just stop at the homework problems.

    Anyway, in order to keep this 3:00 am post from being completely offtopic: there is absolutely no reason at all for anyone to charge money for textbooks in the first place, much less put ads in them. The basic principles have been known for longer than anyone currently in college has been alive; all that really needs to happen is for some philanthropist to fund writers who are good at writing teaching texts, and then release that into the public domain - and don't talk about those open textbooks, I doubt any professor will teach out of something without officious credentials.

    Now I'm hallucinating bugs crawling on my legs. Or at least I hope I'm hallucinating. Either way, it's time for sleep.

    • While I hate to disagree with you, in many fields of science, the changes over a decade are significant, and merit new editions. I just selected a book this year for a junior-level class which I generally like (rigorous in areas that other texts dumb-down), but that has some seriously ... Wrong material. Explanations and models from the era of Nehru jackets and mutton-chop side-burns, and just as relevant to modern science. That book needs a thorough revision that doesn't ruin it like happened to my pref
    • free textbooks (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 )

      Here is a recent USA Today article [usatoday.com] that talks about something similar to what you're referring to. Free textbooks aren't hypothetical, they already exist. A sugar-daddy philanthropist isn't required; professors are already doing it for the same reason they've always written textbooks. (Hint: they've never expected to make any significant amount of money on the typical textbook.) Some good starting points:

      I'm currently working on a CD [libertytextbooks.org] that's meant to convince profes

    • Literally shuffled; in one of my recent classes, the professor would assign the (optional) homework out of the seventh edition of the text, but also had a list of where the exact same problems were in the sixth and fifth.

      "Calculus" by Larson, Hostetler, and Edwards, by any chance?
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  • by njdj ( 458173 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:32AM (#15988885)

    Talk to any student about the price of the college textbooks, and you're likely to hear similar complaints

    I wonder if the person who wrote that has talked to enough students.

    On my desk is the 3rd edition of "Classical Electrodynamics", by J. D. Jackson. This title has been the standard text for advanced classical electromagnetism for about 40 years. The 2nd edition came out in 1974, and the 3rd edition (the latest) in 1998.

    The book is a sturdy hardback, designed for decades of use. I still use it occasionally, and I have a PhD in Physics. It's priced at $97 direct from Amazon, or "Used and new from $55" from Amazon's resellers. This is cheap for such a book.

    Any student who thinks he/she can afford an iPod, but not a book like this, has got seriously screwed-up priorities.

    • You don't need to buy new iPods anywhere near as often as you need to buy textbooks however.
      • You don't need to buy new iPods anywhere near as often as you need to buy textbooks however.

            You do if you keep trying to flush them down airplane toilets!
    • by tomjen ( 839882 )
      The problems with the textbooks is that you need to buy new editions constantly - not because they are better but because they change the order of the homework assignments. Same with the Texas calculators that you have to use in Highschool math (in Denmark anyway). Every two years new features are added to then and math teachers buy require the use of the new version - even if these features where not needed.

      I dont mind paying for good books, but I mind paying for a scam.
      • Not to mention they refuse to let you go right to the top of the pile. =\

        My B.S. CompSci program is quite math-heavy (so much so that it's an automatic minor), so I figured, what the hell. I'm going to use this Calculator for the whole time, and get into some heavy crap, so I might as well get the TI-89 (I admit, the drooly-geek factor played a part in this decision). Turns out, Calc won't let me use it because of its "advanced" functions. Now I've got to use a 10-year-old TI-85, or do it all by hand, sinc
    • "Any student who thinks he/she can afford an iPod, but not a book like this, has got seriously screwed-up priorities."

      Agreed, there are few textbooks with the authority or staying power of Jackson (or Goldstein for mechanics, or Golub for matrix computation). However, while your evaluation of values is fine as far as it goes, when purchasing 4 books (or more) each semester, your model breaks. Should the point of higher education be "how much $$$ can we squeeze from our students this semester?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gsn ( 989808 )
      Unfair example using Jackson as an illustration of low version numbers.

      No complaints about the price of Jackson or any of my physics textbooks. I buy the hardback ones used from Amazon or Abebooks. I'm keeping all of them and I want them to last. I atually buy some Indian textbooks for friends when I go back home every other year but they tend to fall apart at the seams during the semester. I wish all of them were hardback - Misner, Thorne, Wheeler isn't and its like Jackson for GR.

      The point about the low v
    • The problem is, for ever 100 dollar book that's a valuable reference in the field as you mention, there's six or eight that cost at least as much that are totally worthless.

      I just finished up a computer engineering degree, and all of my books but a few were badly written, from general chemistry on up to device electronics. Thankfully i was able to sell most of them back, and keep the couple I wanted to use as reference.
  • ever since grade school, there has always been product placement in every one of my text books (except science, which always uses stuff like 'cola' or 'orange juice' brand colas and orange juices)

    So no, i wouldn't mind an actual ad every here and then.
  • It's not so bad, while we have choice to go and buy books which are clean of adverts, and it's not like the text book is the ONLY source of information for these students. I firmly believe that marketing scum should be shut down like this. It really is just shoving their cock down the throats of students.
  • Illegal in Belgium (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lowieken ( 522530 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:59AM (#15988935) Homepage
    In Belgium, ad supported textbooks are illegal. Any publicity/sponsoring in education is illegal, in all three language communities, which is where the responsibility for education lies.

    This is part of the very broad consensus in our country that education is a public good. Messing with that is guaranteed to get all kinds of people really angry.
    • If I were you, I would not be bragging about how my country's government punishes people for writing or publishing books. Just saying...
      • I certainly would, in this case. You make it sound like it's completely arbitrary.
        I, for one, agree wholeheartedly with this law.

      •   In that case, you may want to watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfRUMmTs0ZA [youtube.com]

          (20/20's comparison of American education with Belgium education) ...

          Seems to me that they are doing it right over in Belgium. Kudos to them, seems their laws/system aren't hampering their education system much, not like ours here in the US.

        SB
    • "In Belgium, ad supported textbooks are illegal. Any publicity/sponsoring in education is illegal, in all three language communities, which is where the responsibility for education lies. This is part of the very broad consensus in our country that education is a public good. Messing with that is guaranteed to get all kinds of people really angry."

      Welcome to America where children get ad-supported text books and advert-news from Channel One [wikipedia.org].

      • Oh god, that sounds horrible D:

        When I was in school we had a morning television broadcast, but it was produced entirely by students in-school. It was kind of stupid much of the time, but it had its moments, and at the very least was locally relevany and ad-free. Plus, teachers were by no means required to show it.

        But I'm glad to know about this...if I ever have kids I'll want to make sure not to send them to a school where this kind of crap is going on.
    • Can we borrow your politicians for a while? We need them to come over to the US and kick some people where it hurts ;-)

      SB
  • Its not so bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JustOK ( 667959 )
    I really think that [Drink Coke] anything that improves [Save on Laptops at Dell.ca] what we are teaching the next generations [Shop at Walmart] is a good thing. If ads help in the production [/\/\cDonald's] of the text books, and to keep costs down [Amazon.ca] so that more people [NetFlix] can be better learnerers [HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead] is a GOOD THING.
  • I sort of felt that adverts would eventually appear in textbooks (probably even off-the-shelf "entertainment" books, too). I think businesses are looking to keep their bottom line fluid and in the black. I don't know if the advert trend is a good or bad thing.

    The advert idea popping up all over: my local grocery now has little ad placards in the aisles (that have nothing to do with any of the products in the store, like wireless companies); I daresay most of us have seen the non-movie adverts in movies (b
  • They would have to control what advertisements are allowed in what textbook, otherwise, who knows what could end up in them? Imagine a church group advertising in an evolution textbook, for example...
  • I'm crying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:13AM (#15989060) Homepage
    ... because god forbid our children [and yes that includes college kids] actually LEARN A DAMN THING. Let's make more money, take take take, and now let's be even more invasive.

    It's already hard enough to motivate kids to study. Now they'll have ads bothering them? I really fear for the future.

    Any smart professors would just change their teaching style to avoid text books as much as possible [hint: there are usually other books on any given topic outside the mainstream academia].

    Tom
    • I always wondered about that. I'd love to find a prof teaching technical courses out of ORA books. They're cheaper than just about all textbooks, and worlds better than most.
  • I actually have the option of downloading a textbook for a class this fall for free. I'm buying the book. Reading long text on a computer screen just doesn't work for me, and printing out 372 pages seems silly. Besides which, it's a class directly related to my field which means I'll likely want to keep the book for future reference - so I'll want a bound copy that will stay readable over time.

    Of course, it helps that the bound copy of this particular book is under $20 at Amazon. If this were one of the $

  • Heck this is my last semester before graduation. I'm only taking four classes. And when I bought books this semester it came to about $410. That's a rip-off.
  • What is the problem, precisely? Are we so fucked up? So utterly incapable of bringing a fucking product to market that we can't figure out a way to manufacture a piece of portable hardware that allows people to read books from a screen? I mean yeah, I know we can't get back to the moon, and can't provide for ourselves and have to borrow money to have kitchen appliances shipped 10,000 miles so we have something to put on the shelves but are we so bereft of vision that we can't build a simple book reader?
    • I'm waiting for a fantastic e-paper reader, personally.
  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter&tedata,net,eg> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @09:38AM (#15989238) Journal
    you're likely to hear similar complaints about the cost of the textbooks, the rip-off buyout prices at local college bookstores and insidious publishers who keep changing editions every few years just to change the page numbers and kill off the used books market.

    I'm a high school teacher who just had a marvelous time over the summer trying to order our next set of pre-calc books for our district. I needed to phone the company to find out the price of the textbooks in order to draft a price quote for the district before they would approve the order. I was trying to find out from the salesperson what the price of the pre-calc books were, using the ISBN from the sample book they had sent us. The problem I was having was that the ISBN of the sample book I had was different from the ISBN of the book that they were selling on the website, and both were different from the ISBN of the textbook that the salesman gave me over the phone. It took another 30 minute call to find out why.

    Apparently, the ISBN of the book on the website was the wrong website. The pre-calc book I was searching for was published by Pearson Education, which owns a whole slew of subsidiary publishers, including Prentice Hall, Scott Foresman, Addison Wesley... I found the book I was looking for on Addison Wesley's website, though the book I wanted was apparently on Prentice Hall's website. But here's the kicker...The salesperson from the original inquiry gave me the ISBN for the college bound edition, instead of the High School bound edition. When I asked what the difference was (they were priced the same), she explained that the high school binding is much stronger and is meant to last for a good seven-eight years of abuse, while the college binding is only designed to last for two years before it starts to fall apart. I was surprised, and I asked the salesperson why the college kids get the poorer binding. She explained that the college bookstores (though I'm sure the publishers love this as well) don't profit as well of used book sales, so they want books to have a short lifespan. It's easier when the book is falling apart for them to refuse buyback.

    And it makes perfect sense. I remember a whole bunch of my textbooks that would really fall apart in a year's time back in college, and I always wondered why my high school books could take so much more abuse and still come out alright. My prob-stat book in particular was shedding pages faster than a balding man would shed hair. Just another way publishers are trying to screw students in the long run.
    • She explained that the college bookstores (though I'm sure the publishers love this as well) don't profit as well of used book sales, so they want books to have a short lifespan. It's easier when the book is falling apart for them to refuse buyback.
      Heeeee hee hee -- I love it, what a self-serving, ridiculous argument. OK, most college bookstores are nonprofit. The standard markup nationwide is about 36%. That may sound high to someone who's never run a business, but it has to cover rent, employees, and m

      • I'd love to see where your 36% is coming from. I am a college student, but both my parents work in education so I have *some* knowledge of how things work outside my own school. In my experience, both from my school and everything I've heard about where my parents work as well as where my friends are going to school, college bookstores are violently for-profit. For example, my school's bookstore is no longer run by the school itself, but by Barnes and Nobel (someone else in this thread said B&N's colleg
  • Honestly. I have allergies to Spruce/Pine/Fir (SPF) and most softwoods that end up as the pulp feedstock for paper. I'm also allergic to my current residence, which is constructed mostly of SPF. I actively purge dead-tree materials in favor of electronic equivalents. The "textbook" and "newspaper" smells that some people praise are anathema [reference.com] to me. However, putting adverts in reference material is just as bad.

    That said, the college textbook requirements have always been a scam perpetrated by the uni
  • Selling books in the education market is highly profitable business. Let me rephrase that: publisher profits in the education market are financed through government sponsorships (e.g. research grants); money intended for education (e.g. scholarships or parent contributions) and money earned by students in various jobs when they should be studying. If that's not good enough: students are more or less required to buy the books (provided you get teachers to endorse them). Vast amounts of money intended for edu
  • An average student takes 5 classes each semester. Usually 2 to 5 books are required per class. One of these books is expensive, between $70 to $100 and the other 4 are between $10 to $25. It usually averages out about $125 per class, setting the student back about $625...although in my experience, it usually works out to around $500 for the semester.

    At a public university, such as Rutgers, tuition and fees comes to $9,958 (about $10,000). So, you have to spend a 10% premium to get your books. Shitty, b
  • Just find a site with a ton of cracked ebooks and download the suckers.

    When I was in college back in the Seventies, I asked a friend who had one of those big grey Kodak microfilm cameras like they had in libraries to microfilm all my textbooks. Sold them back to the bookstore, bought a handheld microfiche reader and used that. Teacher gave me funny looks when he told the class to open their books to page so-and-so and I whip out a little plastic gadget and some plastic sheets and start peering through a len
  • by cjsm ( 804001 )
    I was shocked when my nephew was taking calculus a couple of years ago and he had to pay over $100 for a book. When I went to college in the early 70s it was around $25, if I remember correctly. What is the excuse for this price? There is no new information in them. Its not like a medical or computer science book where there is new data coming out every year which must be incorporated into the text. There is no reason to rewrite them every year. There is no need for new editions. There are already 100
  • Today we will go through the [sponsor's product] sponsored explanation of Special Relativity, proudly brought to you by [sponsor's name]. We will learn the derviation of the famous equation E = [sponsor's product] MC^2. But first a word from our sponsor [sponsor]. But first let's take a moment to learn about new refreshing [sponsor's product].

    What a FUCKING AWFUL idea. Oh no this won't be abused at all. When you read a damned textbook you need to focus on what you're learning not a bunch of ads. This move i
  • Some years ago I read about websites of scanned in textbooks. Some guys in Asia hire cheap labor to scan entire textbook, then charge modest fee for download. Can be profitable in as little as one hundred downloads.
    Has anyone else heard of this?
  • The only reason advertisers would pay for this is if they are getting more business in return than the cost of the textbooks. Therefore, on average, the students will be paying more for their textbooks, not less. Schools that are allowing this are simply helping advertisers to take more money from this relatively naive and vulnerable population segment. They are doing no favors.

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