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Professors -- Why specify the most recent edition?

Old 08-29-09, 09:10 PM
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Professors -- Why specify the most recent edition?

Why? They always update the syllabus to specify the most recent edition of a textbook. For the first time, at the start of my junior year of college, I've finally encountered a professor who said we can buy any edition of the statistics book we like -- they're all just as good. Is there some reason others don't do this?

I can understanding buying the edition specified for a math class, which I am taking two of; math classes generally require completing specific problems sits within the book, which are unique to that edition.

But I am also taking News Writing, which requires this book:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/049...1S7FTA5Q798V8M

The college bookstore offers it for $95.00.

Right, but I can get a used copy of the 5th edition, only 2 years older, for as little as $1.50

For a book like this, where there are no problem sets and the syllabus assignment listing only says "Read chapter 1-3 by day x," is there really going to be a problem?
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Old 08-29-09, 09:12 PM
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Things change, get improved every time so, it's better off to keep up to date with the stuff.
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Old 08-29-09, 09:20 PM
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It's the educational publishing racket at work.
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Old 08-29-09, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Velo Vol View Post
It's the educational publishing racket at work.
This.


My friends and I compared the Physics books we had with the following year's edition. There were changes in the order of material (but it was the same material, verbatim), and there was 1 additional page of graphics in a single section.

Old edition was offered at a $7.00 buy-back after 12 months depreciation from $90.00 original price. The new edition was $95.00.
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Old 08-29-09, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Velo Vol View Post
It's the educational publishing racket at work.
This, but at the same time...certain subject matter changes EVERY year.

For example, Tax law changes every year, with amendments and changes every month. Therefore, Accounting texts on Taxation change every year. It sucks, but its sometimes actually relevant to have the most recent edition.

Also if you're looking for cheap textbooks next semester/year. Copy down ISBNs and search Amazon/Google for them. They'll be a lot cheaper.
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Old 08-29-09, 09:44 PM
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Don't you want the most up to date info?
But, seriously; it's the publishing racket.
Watch out for prof's enriching themselves as well. A lot of them have pieces of the books they use. I was unfortunate enough on one basic course to have a prof who used his book as a supplemental text and tested based upon it. Bookstore wouldn't buy it back at any price (usually they paid 50% and sold again at 75%) 'cuz it wasn't going to be used by the other profs the next quarter. Frickin jackhole prof!!
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Old 08-29-09, 09:47 PM
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I think the high price is a racket, but from the professor's perspective, it might pose some difficulty in setting up reading assignments etc... In theory a new edition will have some page numbering changes from the additional material, and a new text may even introduce new chapters or arrange things differently.

I have heard there is also a standard for professors, and it is probably part of why there are new editions so frequently... "Publish or perish." If a professors don't get works published regularly it can be detrimental to their career.

Some profs publish research papers, and others publish text books. Those that publish text books do so for their career, and it happens to keep the publishers happy with new editions which means fewer students are able to buy used books and must buy new...
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Old 08-29-09, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomcow2 View Post
For a book like this, where there are no problem sets and the syllabus assignment listing only says "Read chapter 1-3 by day x," is there really going to be a problem?
So long as you're basically covering the same content, you're fine. When I went to school, I often used different editions. There are some things that change a fair amount, but most are close enough that it doesn't matter.

Don't forget about the library or interlibrary loan. You can literally save thousands.
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Old 08-29-09, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Velo Vol View Post
It's the educational publishing racket at work.
This, combined with standardization.

About half of my Comp II class had the same Comp I class instructor (me included). Just before Comp I ended she told everyone what book would be needed for Comp II so that we could all save a little coin by buying from other sources than the school. Division Chair decides at the last minute that newest edition would be required. First day of class, half of us had the old ones and the other half the new ones. After comparing, the two had the same relevant material, just with slightly different page numbers. She told us what story/poem by which author and we had to look it up for ourselves.

I don't think all professors would be as flexible.
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Old 08-29-09, 10:02 PM
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Isn't that (most unfortunately) amazing**********?

It's not the professor's or the Adjuncts decision either, nor the Chair of the Department. It's higher up. The Professors develop their schedule - fill it out with classes - hoping they fill up and they are a go - and that they don't have to boot an adjunct outta a class in order to make load - but from there it goes to chair to be approved.

Yer teachers don't make those decisions, however they can decide to add certain other books, etc.

Another thing I think that rather stinks is (I work in a 2 yr community college) is that for students (of all ages) who qualify for financial aid/grants - this is money they do not have to pay back - and the book store sells all sorts of stuff - like $50-$75 backpacks (wtf) and $150 portable dvd players, etc - and this can all be used from their grant money - which, I'm sorry came from the state - the state who cancelled the funding for the first Tour de New York - that was all approved, versus/espn were scheduled to film, more pro teams than last year, bigger pay outs, and then we found we're effed (been involved in this race since it started 5 yrs ago).

And then the college will go and send a broadcast e-mail to all that if they don't use this money by such and such a date it will be reincoporated into the system, oh and btw the college clothing is on sale - like a hooded sweatshirt - normally $75 - is now $65.



Something's wrong with this system.

And yeah I've been effed by the books too.
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Old 08-29-09, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by banerjek View Post
Don't forget about the library or interlibrary loan. You can literally save thousands.
But aren't you cheating them out of being paid for their copyrighted material?
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Old 08-29-09, 11:45 PM
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Some profs also checked the texts so noone else could use them. Profs were allowed to check out books for an entire quarter, so it was pretty effective.
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Old 08-30-09, 06:49 AM
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Very few profs publish textbooks. The publish or perish paradigm usually favors highly specialized articles and books--in other words, texts for other profs. Also, the profit margin on those textbooks is tiny, so most of the profs who write them make almost no money on them.

The real reason is because publishers do not make any money on used book sales, so there is a huge incentive to change something small to make a "new" edition. Academic publishers (and I have several friends who used to work for them) are in terrible financial shape. Take a literature book. If it's 20th century lit, most of the works are still under copyright protection, so printing rights have to be paid to authors or authors' estates; this adds up with a 1500 page textbook. Add to that the fact that only a couple thousand students across the country will be enrolled in a lit class using that particular text; economies of scale do not factor in here. Add to that the number of used copies floating around. Finally, you can add in the costs of printing, distribution, sales reps, free instructor copies, and so on. Once you done all of this addition, it's clear why so many of the friends I mentioned above are either unemployed or working for someone else now.

As a prof, I always try to find the cheapest books avialable--I remember what it was like to pay hundred each semester for books, so I don't insist on the latest edition. I'm also frustrated in class when I'm trying to point out a passage that my students need to know--a passage that will be on the test--and we have to deal with two or three different editions with different page numbers. It slows things down in class and takes up a lot of valuable time. To help with this, I got an instructor copy of the text and put it on reserve in the library. It's a bad model but there does not yet seem to be a better one.
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Old 08-30-09, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Vol View Post
It's the educational publishing racket at work.
+1 billion. I just spent $500 on books for my son, 3 of the 5 I could have gotten from friends for free, but they changed the books this term. Will be renting book next semester.
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Originally Posted by AEO View Post
you should learn to embrace change, and mock it's failings every step of the way.

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Old 08-30-09, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
But aren't you cheating them out of being paid for their copyrighted material?
Only if he's going to the library and making a photocopy of the book. The library paid for the book with the specific purpose of lending it. No foul play.
Nice try, though.
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Old 08-30-09, 07:41 AM
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I haven't bought books for the last 3 semesters and I'm still rockin' the highest GPA in my program. Suck it you money-hungry *****s!

I use a few simple tricks: find a buddy with a book, use the book on loan at the library (if available), ask the professor to borrow their book (it's worked before), borrow an old edition from a friend, or I simply don't read the book.

The first option was usually the most effective. There were a few times where I took pictures of the assignment with my phone from someone who had the book in class when the assignment was given.
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Old 08-30-09, 08:39 AM
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A few years ago you could get a lot of texts wayyy cheaper (like 33% of US price) at British amazon (amazon.co.uk) but I think Big Textbook caught onto that. Worth checking out, though.
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Old 08-30-09, 10:09 AM
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There is hardly a professor in the land who does not get to personally choose whatever texts they want for their classes. In most cases, no one has any say in the matter but the professor.

So, is it the professor's fault that they specify the newest edition of the text when the past editions are clearly good enough in most cases? As a professor, I would say that professors could put a bit more thought into this. If the only difference is pagination and some incidental marginal material, then they could spend a minute looking into whether or not there are sufficient older editions out there to make it work. For obvious reasons, there are advantages to everyone in the room having the same page numbers in their texts. And I am clever enough to attempt to judge if that advantage is worth students the students' money. Depends on the situation, I find.

In my experience, the bookstores at the universities where I have taught are not eager to complicate things by using old editions. No problem. If I have judged that the old edition is the way to go, I simply tell the students to buy the old editions on-line. Magically, after a semester or two of that, the bookstore suddenly finds the means to get their hands on older editions.

Keep in mind that bookstores at almost all universities are not owned or run by the university itself. Most are invisible franchises of Barnes and Noble. Really. Barnes and Noble is not really in the business of selling used texts. So they are not eager to work that way. Plus they make less money that way, I suspect.

As a professor, my primary loyalty is to my students. I also feel a considerable loyalty to the university and to the community at large. However, I feel no loyalty whatsoever to the company that runs the bookstore. I wish them the best, but I feel no obligation whatsoever to contribute to their business. I use them when they can provide a service that is useful. And I do not use them when they do not. Even when I do place an order at the bookstore, I check their price compared to other ready sources. If their prices are higher, I tell the students this.

jim

p.s., yes. the bookstore people at my school hate me.
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Old 08-30-09, 10:16 AM
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The problem I've encountered from using old books is in classes where the book is followed along in class.

I think the best option is to get together with 5 or 10 students. One orders the book at half cost from Amazon, and then he or she goes to a print shop and makes copies of the book, and gives them out to the others at cost. Or, for even less money, a high quality digital camera can be used to take pictures of the entire thing, and discs of the pictures can be dispensed to anyone who wants one, perhaps only charging enough to make up for the money spent on the book.
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Old 08-30-09, 10:24 AM
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The interpretation of copyright laws in an educational setting are still in flux. It used to be simply that any "educational" use of materials was considered fair game. Then, starting in the early 90's, the law has been taking a narrower and narrow view of what that means. I have not found any one voice that can clearly indicate where those bounds are today. Can I show a movie in class? Can I show a movie to my students outside of class? Can I join two classes together to show a movie? Does it have to be on-campus? Who do I need approval from? There are million such questions I have that no one seems to have a definitive answer to. I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty confident saying that your suggestion is well outside the law however.

I am not passing judgment on the plan. My heart tends to go with the little dude sticking it to the man. But know that the plan is almost certainly not legal.

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Originally Posted by Michigander View Post
The problem I've encountered from using old books is in classes where the book is followed along in class.

I think the best option is to get together with 5 or 10 students. One orders the book at half cost from Amazon, and then he or she goes to a print shop and makes copies of the book, and gives them out to the others at cost. Or, for even less money, a high quality digital camera can be used to take pictures of the entire thing, and discs of the pictures can be dispensed to anyone who wants one, perhaps only charging enough to make up for the money spent on the book.
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Old 08-30-09, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Vol View Post
It's the educational publishing racket at work.
+1

I have a friend who used to be an editor of textbooks. She told me that more often that not they just shifted stuff around to make it a new edition.

Last edited by Ziemas; 08-30-09 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 08-30-09, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jgedwa View Post
There is hardly a professor in the land who does not get to personally choose whatever texts they want for their classes. In most cases, no one has any say in the matter but the professor.

So, is it the professor's fault that they specify the newest edition of the text when the past editions are clearly good enough in most cases? As a professor, I would say that professors could put a bit more thought into this. If the only difference is pagination and some incidental marginal material, then they could spend a minute looking into whether or not there are sufficient older editions out there to make it work. For obvious reasons, there are advantages to everyone in the room having the same page numbers in their texts. And I am clever enough to attempt to judge if that advantage is worth students the students' money. Depends on the situation, I find.

In my experience, the bookstores at the universities where I have taught are not eager to complicate things by using old editions. No problem. If I have judged that the old edition is the way to go, I simply tell the students to buy the old editions on-line. Magically, after a semester or two of that, the bookstore suddenly finds the means to get their hands on older editions.

Keep in mind that bookstores at almost all universities are not owned or run by the university itself. Most are invisible franchises of Barnes and Noble. Really. Barnes and Noble is not really in the business of selling used texts. So they are not eager to work that way. Plus they make less money that way, I suspect.

As a professor, my primary loyalty is to my students. I also feel a considerable loyalty to the university and to the community at large. However, I feel no loyalty whatsoever to the company that runs the bookstore. I wish them the best, but I feel no obligation whatsoever to contribute to their business. I use them when they can provide a service that is useful. And I do not use them when they do not. Even when I do place an order at the bookstore, I check their price compared to other ready sources. If their prices are higher, I tell the students this.

jim

p.s., yes. the bookstore people at my school hate me.
Amazingly, as a 20 year prof and dept. chair, I don't see a single thing in your writing I agree with. We have a rental system, and insist on 3-4 yr. adoptions. Maybe where you work sux.
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Old 08-30-09, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mgbguy View Post
Amazingly, as a 20 year prof and dept. chair, I don't see a single thing in your writing I agree with. We have a rental system, and insist on 3-4 yr. adoptions. Maybe where you work sux.
The bookstore does suck, yes.

I have been around the block a few times, and I have never run into a dept or school that had either policy you mention. In any case, I am not at all a fan of there being any dept or school policy that limits what materials I use in class. Pot, kettle, sux.

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Old 08-30-09, 08:36 PM
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How else can I make a buck in this rancid economy without updating and charging more?
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Old 08-30-09, 10:32 PM
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Last university textbook I was able to sell for anything above $10.00 was a chemistry book in 1991. Because there isn't much point in selling texts, I just keep them around as reference.
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