Editorial: Making texts more affordable

Professors assigning their own texts should consider cheaper alternatives.

A student taking a full course load  is  likely to be assigned required reading penned by a familiar face – his or her professor.

Textbooks written by professors range from inexpensive non-fiction texts to pricey reference books. For example, “Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism” by David Farber, assigned for his Recent American History class, sells for as little as $9.20 at Temple’s bookstore, while a new copy of the required package “World Affairs,” by John Masker which is assigned to his class of the same name, sells for $47.95.

Despite potentially burning holes in students’ pockets, there are no doubt benefits to matching the name on one’s book to the name on one’s roster. These texts often follow lectures more closely and consolidate information from multiple textbooks – potentially saving students money and the hassle of buying multiple books for a single course.

However, some students say books authored by their professors didn’t complement the class or follow along with the subject matter, causing one to wonder about the actual motive behind the required reading.

Students have a right to  know how much profit professors are seeing from these additional textbook sales, which are often assigned to lecture courses with hundreds of students in each section.

If a professor has access to a book, he or she should consider making it available online to the class or offering a wholesale price. Professors would have an opportunity to keep the scholarly benefits of assigning their own work while giving students a break.

While coordinating a class with self-authored required reading may have its benefits, professors should seriously consider if the text is the best fit for his or her class before requiring students to purchase it.

1 Comment

  1. We at Temple University Libraries certainly understand the challenges students face with textbook costs. The first week of each semester our service desks are inundated with students asking the same question repeatedly, “Does the library have my textbook?” – as students are hoping they can borrow rather than buy a required textbook. To that end the Libraries support the “Alternate Textbook Project” (http://sites.temple.edu/alttextbook) that provides a funding award to faculty who agree to replace their existing commercial textbook with some mix of learning materials that can include existing licensed library context (e.g., e-books, journal articles, video, etc) and open educational resources. In the past three years, 27 faculty have successfully moved from expensive textbooks to no textbooks – replaced by alternate learning materials. As you can imagine, students in these courses are extremely gratified to learn there is no textbook they need to purchase. Even better, faculty evaluations of these projects indicates improved student learning and interaction with course content as all students had easy electronic access to the course learning material.

    In addition, faculty are always welcome to place copies of physical textbooks with our Reserve Book service so that students can borrow the book for up to two hours at time. This can certainly help students who seek an option to a textbook purchase.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.