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Professors Put Textbooks Online

Penny-Wise Professors Learn How to Please Students

Buying college textbooks can tack on thousands to an already expensive experience; paying up to several hundred a semester really adds up. Students have learned to be creative in getting their hands on textbooks by buying used, borrowing from the library, or sharing with classmates, but some professors have recently stepped up to the plate in taking a stand against overpriced lecture material.

R. Preston McAfee, an economics professor at Cal Tech, has made his introductory economics textbook available online for free download. He sacrificed what could have been a $100,000 book advance and a $200 price-tag to list the book in a protest statement against outrageously priced college textbooks. In a similar endeavor, Richard G. Baraniuk, an engineering professor at Rice University, spearheaded a free textbook effort called Connexions that allows teachers to post collections of material for students.

Another service called CourseSmart has caught on quickly, but it isn't free. Five publishers have created the service that provides certain books online, and students pay about half of what a printed book would cost. It's great to see that more cost-effective options are becoming available to students, especially since college tuition is on the rise.


Join The Conversation
thelorax thelorax 8 years
The textbook industry is corrupt, no joke. They're in collusion to systematically release new editions which might change the font, add some graphics, maybe tack on a new chapter to look legit, but ultimately all it does is change the pagination and the look so that you're totally screwed when the prof says "turn to page ###".
CoralAmber CoralAmber 8 years
Luckily, I haven't had to buy a textbook in years. All of my teachers hate how much they cost so they only use online sources or a book that is widely available at the library so everyone can borrow a copy.
addywisbef addywisbef 8 years
I've had professors do something similar. They would write a textbook, send it to the printer, and the only thing we had to pay were printing costs when we went to pick it up. It normally came out to about $30. We were all so grateful! My biggest issue with textbooks is the edition game bookstores play. I have purchased a $130 book only to learn at the end of the semester that they will not buy it back because the next semester requires the newest edition, which means they shuffled the chapters around in the previous edition. This also forces students to buy new.
baybug baybug 8 years
I think this is a great way to save money. I wish I had this option when I was in college.
seven7 seven7 8 years
I just bought a book on coursesmart for download for $62 where the paper version of it costs $130. Even if I can resell the book, I'd only be able to sell it for about $60 anyway, so I'm not really losing any money. It's only good for one year, but it is searchable and so much more convenient than lugging a book around... I love it!
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
This is great that the professor did this. I remember, the price in undergrad for books plus paying tuition. Just seem like I could never catch up.
SugarKat SugarKat 8 years
That's great that profs are cognizant of this. Sometimes I think it's too easy for them to just require you to buy a book and then sometimes not even use it. I was an English major so a lot of my books were just paperbacks that didn't have new versions because they were classics. That was nice...
geebers geebers 8 years
I agree- textbooks are way too expensive. I found ways around it. The library always had a copy of the book on reserve- I would make copies of the chapter required the weeks before and paid it off that way. It is not as convenient as having the book but when I DID buy the book -it was useless for me later on as it became out-dated. I sold my books for a fraction of the price and it was not worth it anymore to buy books for class.
bengalspice bengalspice 8 years
There are definitely talks in the publishing industry about what to do about textbooks. They cost too much to edit, too much to produce, most sit in warehouses, and no one likes having a two ton brick as school material. I think in the near future academic publishers are going to experiment with eBook editions of textbooks.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
ugh - i remembered when i was in school how hard it was to come up with enough money to get the books - and the frustrating thing is that each semester it seems like there was a newer edition, so not only could you rarely buy used books, you couldn't sell them back to the bookstore to make any money back from them. what my classmates and i did - we would find someone that had the book and pay them a few bucks each week to photocopy the chapter...and that way we wouldn't be paying as much money and we could still have the book. it's hard when you're in school and you just don't have that kind of money since other costs are going up and up each year.
PinkLizzie PinkLizzie 8 years
Where I did my undergrad, we had a neat trick to get around all the copyright fees that normally go with course-packs (collections of copyrighted material from a variety of sources). It is within copyright law to make a copy of something for personal use, it's usually inconvenient for students to track down all the sources the prof wants to use though, so they sell the readings in a course-pack (which is subject to copyright, because it's on sale). Instead, the benevolent profs (and those who were begged by their classes) dropped off binders of *their* personal copies at the copy shop on campus. The students could then drop in, take the binders to the photocopiers to make personal copies, and get their readings for the cost of the copying. And, you could use the auto-feed on the copier, instead of dedicating a day to standing there with original books and magazines.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 8 years
Ughhhh I have been trying to tell my professors to see if they can all start doing this!! Books are sooo overpriced.
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