Friday, April 25, 2008

The "Bankrupting Costs of Textbooks"

That is the conclusion of an editorial in this mornings NYTimes. The newspaper also notes a bill pending in Congress that would require publishers to sell "unbundled versions of textbooks minus the pricey add-ons." The editorial is short but makes some significant and spurious leaps in logic. As one example, Educators must,
embrace new methods of textbook development and distribution if they want to rein in runaway costs. That means using digital textbooks, which can often be presented online free of charge or in hard copies for as little as one-fifth the cost of traditional books. The digital books can also be easily customized and updated.

In conclusion, the newspaper suggests that institutions should take advantage of these new developments citing a tiny publisher offering textbooks for free and 'research' that suggests free geography material produces the same results as purchased materials.

Noting there is 'no reason' a textbook costs $140 is like saying there is no reason gas is $4/gallon. Higher education is like buying a car. You don't expect to get the gas for free and you shouldn't expect to get educational material for free. Legitimately, a student should expect to be treated fairly in respect to the materials they are asked to purchase for their course work but this is a complicated issue and to suggest 'publishers are calling the tune' is inaccurate and misleading.

1 comment:

The Falcon said...

Agreed. Let alone that no part of book production and distribution is "free" and the part about easy customization is not yet a reality in the ed-pub world. It's always sad to see reputable sources simplify issues to the point of incoherence. Onward...