The Textbook Change

I don't like changing textbooks. It's a huge hassle for a number of reasons. I like my lecture notes to be organized around the textbook I'm using. (Not to say that I repeat what's in the textbook, but minimally, I try to lecture on things in the same order as they are presented in the book.) So changing books means rearranging all my lectures. Plus, I'll have to rewrite the exams to reflect the material presented in the new text and take out questions based on the old one.

I'm also sensitive to students' concerns. If I change to a new book, students taking the class will not be able to find used textbooks to buy. Likewise, students who have taken the class will not find a market for their unwanted books. And, serving on the AASUA Teaching and Learning Committee, I've talked to Students' Union VPs about the issue of expensive textbooks--so I am trying to Be Booksmart!

But here's the problem: I want to use the best possible textbooks in my courses. Part of the usefulness of a book is its recency. But even a brand-new textbook is: obsolete. Why? After a research study has been completed, it takes up to a year for it to see print in a scientific journal. Next, it takes a few months--or even a year--for an author to write a textbook. By the time the book gets published, a few more months have passed. This means that research being done and theories being developed today are years ahead of the information contained on dead trees. And if I choose to keep using an old textbook, students can be 5 years behind the curve.

Publishing companies have caught on to students' tricks--they know about the used textbook market. So they regularly update their textbooks, ceasing publication of old editions. This means that I'm forced to switch to the new editions, and the process starts all over again. Which brings me to the decisions I'm going to have to make soon. I'm not going to switch to a different textbook, but I'm going to have to make a decision about adopting updated editions of a couple of textbooks I use in my courses.

The textbook I use in my PSYCO 104 course has been updated. It was a good book in the first place, and new edition improves upon it. Even better, it's cheaper than the competing textbook many of my colleagues have chosen--more than $20 cheaper. And there's more good news: I'm working with the company to have a custom-published version of the textbook. This will consist only of the chapters I use in my course (instead of all 18 chapters), which will save students even more money.

The notoriously expensive textbook in my PSYCO 267 course has also been updated. In working with the publisher, we've been able to get the price of the new edition to be $35 less than the old edition. I should switch as soon as possible, right? Choose the new textbook for my Spring course, right? Wait a second. What about all those students this term who want to unload their textbooks? If I switch right away, they won't be able to sell their books. And there won't be any used books available to students in spring term, so they'll have to shell out full price for the new edition.

I have a tricky balancing act to manage. If I stick with the old edition, some students--the ones who want to buy a brand new, unused textbook--will have to pay more. But, on the other hand, the students who buy (and sell) used textbooks will be able to save (and recoup) some money. Obviously, I can't please everyone. So I'll have to do the next best thing, and try to do what's best for the majority. But how many students buy new, and how many buy used? I don't know. So help me out--post a message in the comments telling me what you do.

Why aren't you studying?


Anonymous said...

This question is completely un-related, but I'm curious so I'm going to ask it anyway!

I hit my elbow on the side of the wall today, and said outloud, "ouch" before I had time to even realize that it had not hurt.. at all.

Why does my brain mis-register pain and make me say "ouch" before my noggin even knows if it had hurt or not?!

Karsten Loepelmann said...

@Anonymous: Hmm, I'd have to go with conditioning. You associate banging your arm with pain, so you expect there to be pain. It takes a moment for the pain to consciously register, so you were expecting some pain...which never came.

Stay safe!

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