TAA Issues We
want to hear from you!
Used Book Swap
book web sites, which encourage the swapping rather than the sale of
used books, are becoming more popular as students struggle with the
rising costs of new books. Here are just two: http://www.ScrewTheBookStores.com
Want to sound off on this subject? Write a column. See below.
Column on Textbook Adoptions
are a hot topic in the news today. In California, two bills have been
introduced into the state legislature to force textbook adopters to
curb spending. What do you think about this issue? Should textbooks
be adopted solely on their academic merit or should price play a role?
500-word maximum. Please send your name, title, school, college or university
affiliation (if any), phone number and e-mail address with your reply
TAA is always looking
for columns on issues related to text and academic authoring (plagiarism;
used books; comp copies; contracts; royalties; journal submission guidelines,
etc.) for publication on the website or in The Academic Author.
400-word maximum. Please send your name, title, school, college or university
affiliation (if any), phone number and e-mail address along with your
column to Kim Pawlak, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
or mail it to S2874 Spruce St., Fountain City, WI 54629 or call (608)
Here are some
causes of increasing textbook costs
by Richard Hull
Director Richard T. Hull
In a typical article
advising students how to cut the costs of their textbooks, Michelle
Singletary writes in her syndicated column, The Color of Money
(July 16, 2006) the following tips to students heading off to college:
(1) See if you can use an old edition of your textbook; you may have
to persuade your professor also to let you use an old syllabus; (2)
Buy a used textbook, which is typically priced at 75 percent off the
retail price of a new one. Singletary attempts to cut out the book reseller
by referring students to such sites as http://www.campusbookswap.com,
which allow students to buy and sell used books to other students; (3)
See if the publisher has an international version of the textbook, in
paperback, often priced at a 90 percent reduction off the U.S. retail
price (Students are directed to http://www.bestbookbuys.com
(4) Shop early before heading back to college, as bookstores often sell
out fast once classes start. Singletary relies heavily on a Government
Accountability Office report that claims textbook prices have increased
at twice the rate of inflation, and on a Public Interest Research Group
report that criticizes the practices of issuing new editions every three
years, and bundling CD-ROMs and workbooks along with texts.
TAA's position on
these issues is that reports and reporters fail to identify the most
important root causes of spiraling textbook prices: students selling
their textbooks after the semester is over, and bookstores and used
book buyers purchasing and reselling them over and over. Admittedly
textbooks are an investment. But their value to students often extends
far beyond the term of four months in a given semester. They form an
ever-growing reference library that can be a lifetime resource. Encouraging
students to sell them back to bookstores, often at less than half the
initial cost, deprives them of a resource by not encouraging them to
think of their texts as additions to a personal library. Textbooks thus
become a necessary expense of getting a credit, reducing a student's
education to little more than a means to a degree, and a degree just
a means to get a job. Reselling textbooks has another, very direct link
to spiraling costs. When a text is resold on the used book market, neither
the publisher nor the author gets any profit. Suppose a textbook is
published this summer at a cost of $40, and 1,000 copies are sold for
fall classes by a bookstore that buys the textbook at a discounted rate
of $20. The publisher earns a gross of $20, from which it must pay its
production costs, warehousing costs, advertising and other marketing
costs. The author might get $2 for each textbook sale. The bookstore
earns a 100 percent gross on each book, from which staff and overhead
expenses are paid.
that new sections of those classes meet in the spring, but that all
1,000 copies of the text are sold by the original students back to their
bookstore at $10; the bookstore resells the 1,000 used copies the next
semester for $30. The publisher, which had hoped for sale of another
thousand copies, finds that it has sold none. Investigation of the used
book market quickly discloses that the bookstore, which is only a middleman
in the production and use of textbooks, has earned another $20 for each
of the original books it sold. The publisher earns nothing on this second
round of sales; the author earns no royalties. If that textbook continues
to be used at the rate of 1,000 copies per semester, over five years,
each of the original copies earns the bookstore the equivalent of 10,000
sales, or $200,000. But the publisher earned only $20,000, and the author
only $2,000. The longer this reselling of the original 1,000 continues,
the more the bookstore makes without any additional income to the producers
of the text.
who find that sales of new copies drop precipitously after the first
three years, in order to stay in business and keep their authors working
for them, bring out a new edition as a kind of defense against this
ongoing loss of income. And the next edition doubtlessly will come out
at a higher price.
Contrast that with
a different possible practice. The 1,000 students who buy the textbook
originally keep the textbook, adding it to their personal libraries.
In the second semester, the bookstore orders another 1,000 new copies
at the same discounted rate. The students from the spring semester keep
their texts as well, and so the following semester the book store orders
another 1,000 new copies. Meanwhile, the return to the publisher on
this textbook is a steady $20,000 every semester, and the royalties
to the author continue at a steady $2,000 for each semester. This would
allow the revision of textbooks to be occasioned not by the need to
counter bookstore resales but by advances in the knowledge base for
the discipline the textbook supports. A new edition of a textbook would
mark the ongoing progress of knowledge, as it should. Publishers would
be appropriately rewarded for their up-front expenses; authors would
be appropriately rewarded for their many hours of labor to create a
So, Michelle Singletary,
GAO, and PIRG, think a little deeper about the reasons behind the spiraling
cost of textbooks, and encourage students to keep their texts. I'll
bet you will find that the cost per text will drop as the numbers of
new copies sold increase.
An author's thoughts
on the price of college textbooks
by Robert W. Christopherson
Christopherson, Professor Emeritus of Geography at American River
College in Sacramento, and author of three best-selling physical
geography texts, shares his insight into the cause of rising textbook
costs. He is also the treasurer of TAA.
An author's thoughts
on the price of college textbooks by Robert W. Christopherson Recent
newspaper coverage of the cost of college textbooks, specifically criticism
in a report from the CALPIRG group, drew my interest and concern. I
was sorry to see that no one interviewed an author. I have 30 years
of college classroom teaching experience and I am a college textbook
author. From this perspective I offer the following thought from "inside"
I agree that textbooks
are expensive. Although, text costs are rising at a rate less than other
educational costs are increasing. Most modern textbooks have high production
values, with limited markets in many academic fields, and require large
capital investments. But there is more to the story. I see the root
cause for textbook costs differently than those shouted by critics.
When students arrive
in class they are multimedia trained by the quick-paced, frantically
edited, computer-generated world of today. For this reason, my textbooks
are visually multimedia -- photos, images, maps, illustrations, and
design elements -- all expensive for me to create and for my publisher
to produce. Many other authors use a similar presentation style. In
addition there is significant demand in higher education for remediation
My textbooks do
not stand alone. Included with the text is an instructional CD-ROM to
assist students. This was not done, as industry critics charge, to "....solely
drive up prices." These animations teach the multimedia student sitting
My publisher funds
an interactive, supporting website specific to my books for students
to use free. Other not-for-sale optional learning materials also are
available. Professors receive an Instructional Resources CD containing
PowerPoint presentations, test banks, animations, and figures from the
text. Also, the teacher may obtain full-color overhead transparencies
of my book's figures. All these instructional materials are provided
One optional ancillary
that is not free is the Student Study Guide, a personal tutorial for
the student. Thus, the publisher has a significant financial investment
that my books must shoulder. Give the limited size of the overall market,
this represents capital outlay on "spec" with some risk to all involved.
When a professor
adopts a text, the order goes to the campus bookstore. On many campuses
the bookstore is operated as a franchise by the used-book industry under
contract to the college. Common practice is for bookstores to mark up
the publisher's net price 30 percent. On most campuses, the bookstores,
cafeterias and parking lots represent an unencumbered source of revenues
not tied to the classroom. Bookstore managers are in a tough spot balancing
all these factors while trying to serve student needs.
When the textbook
sells, the net price is the only income received by the publisher. All
costs, including author's royalties, must be paid from this first sale.
All subsequent transactions involving the textbook net the publisher
nothing -- no income. This is one of the main drivers of new book costs,
strangely, unmentioned by critics.
Another item of
concern, unmentioned by cost critics, is the fate of the sample copies,
"desk copies," sent to professors. Some professors resell their free
sample copies to bookstores/used book buyers. This includes placing
annotated Instructors editions in the used-book stream. One Internet
bookseller emphasized the availability of such annotated editions to
students! TAA President Mike Sullivan said recently in a President'
Message in The Academic Author: "This selling of the Instructor's Editions
of textbooks not only loses revenue for the publisher and royalties
for the author, but compromises the integrity of the book." Publishers
must factor such losses into the initial net price. A simple solution
is for faculty to either keep sample copies for reference or return
the unused sample books at the publisher's expense.
"cosmetic changes" in revisions and that publishers print new editions
every three to four years "...only to drive up the price and make obsolete
the older, cheaper edition." In my field of physical geography, an essential
Earth systems science, scientific breakthroughs demand at least a three-year
revision cycle. This is not true of just my books, for I know other
authors who evolve each of their editions, to better reach and teach
My publisher is
at the forefront of developing more choice for students and teachers.
We produced a Learning Systems version of one of my books, which combined
a briefer text, lecture materials, and online support, at a reduced
cost to students. Further innovations that benefit students are ongoing,
as instructional delivery continues to evolve.
On April 22 of this
year, my publisher announced another innovation in teacher-student choice:
SafariX Textbooks Online. Two of my titles are available through SafariX,
that offers texts online, with many enhanced features, at a 50 percent
discount from list price. This continues a long-held approach of innovation
and choice in instructional media. My goal, and I believe my publisher's
goal, is to provide the best quality and value for the student and a
continuing partnership with teachers.
The issues in this
debate are more complex than the critics seem to comprehend. I hope
informed dialogue is ahead, for we need a strong alliance among students,
faculty, authors, and publishers -- too much is at stake for anything
plagiarism and integrity: Is it carelessness or criminal?
A. Christopher, director of the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning,
and professor of Information Systems at California State University,
Los Angeles, asks what should happen when authors are caught with the
words of others.
"Do as I say,
not as I do." Those words echo in my ear. Who said them? Did I
violate the rules of plagiarizing someone else's work? Where is the
gray area here? I remember - the author of these words was none other
than my mother. Those famous words still echo in my ears after all these
years. So, she must be given credit for the earlier statement. Right?
Wrong? Where did she get that expression?
Frequently we hear
about another author who just happened to "borrow" the words
of another author and claim them as their own. Did Alex Haley take a
sentence for his book, Roots, from another author without giving
that author credit? Did Martin Luther King, Jr. really "lift"
the words for some of his speeches from others as well as plagiarize
portions of his doctoral dissertation? Did the author of the remarkably
popular Harry Potter series commit plagiarism? Did romance writer Janet
Dailey "borrow" portions of her top-selling novels from another
author? Was Shakespeare a plagiarist? Did Steven Spielberg make a movie,
Amistad, based on the idea of someone else whose work was turned down?
Some would argue,
they are just words. M. H. Oermann, in his book, Writing for Publication
in Nursing, said plagiarism "is literary theft." In an
article in Ethics and Behavior, Michael Roig said that although
there is "relatively little empirical research exists documenting
the nature and extent of this problem, the literature of scientific
misconduct suggests that this phenomenon may be on the increase."
Then there is the
argument that errors happen in citing sources. Doris Kearns Goodwin,
a Pulitzer prizewinning author, states in a February 4, 2002 Time
magazine article, "...citation mistakes can happen. I failed to
provide quotation marks for phrases that I had taken verbatim, having
assumed these, drawn from my notes were my words, not hers (referring
to the author Lynne McTaggart's book)." The author underwent a
scourging in the press for her "mistake."
According to a January
26, 2002 article in National Journal, Tish Durkin takes Doris
Kearns Goodwin to task: ...you produced, nearly verbatim and without
acknowledgement, a number of passages from a biography of Kathleen Kennedy
by Lynn McTaggart. When Taggart went haywire, you altered future editions.
You inserted some 40 footnotes, you emphasized your debt to the McTaggart
book on the acknowledgements page, and - shades of Nixon - paid her
some money to make the matter go away. You did not, however, change
the date at the bottom of the acknowledgments page after changing the
text. Nor did you issue a press release or add so much as a 'plagiarism-deleted
edition!' banner on the paperback cover.
Should we be more
forgiving when authors break the rules? Does the rush to publish and
meet deadlines cause authors to become careless? Should they be branded
as plagiarizers when such carelessness occurs? Roger Rosenblatt, in
a January 21, 2002 Time magazine article, states: "Among
Ambrose's defenses are that he used footnotes to indicate his pilfered
passages and that he was working too hastily to get the quotation marks
What is this gray
area? Those pieces of data, facts, phrases, and other materials that
we just seem to know - are they someone's intellectual property? What
about the portions of a book that stick in one's mind? In an article
in Publishers Weekly, Calvin Reid states that this is the premise
made by "Melany Nelson whose novel The Persia Café
contains a number of passages that appear to be copied from sections
of Barbara Kingsolver's best-selling novel The Bean Trees."
As mentioned earlier,
the words we use, our style of speaking and writing, our formation of
our sentences make us the unique individuals we are. So, when an author
such as Stephen Ambrose, historical author of such amazing works as
Crazy Horse and Custer and the Nixon trilogy, copies
another person's work, we wonder why. And we wonder what to tell our
students who agonize over their writing assignments and are chastised
when they break the rules of carefully documenting their work.
Is plagiarism taken
seriously enough to give someone more than a slap on the hand? In an
article in Editor and Publisher, authors Wayne Robins and Eric
Whalen would say: The answer is an equivocal YES! Robins and Whalen
say to just ask Mike Barnicle whose "alleged plagiarism of another
author's work led to his forced resignation after 25 years as the Globe's
most popular columnist. According to former Boston Magazine Editor
Craig Unger, Barnicle was caught again and again by powers that be within
the Globe and outsiders such as Alan Dershowitz, the Boston
Phoenix, the Boston Herald, and Boston Magazine."
What advice does
one give those who have plagiarized or are contemplating plagiarism?
In his article, "When Disaster Strikes" which appeared in
the December 1999 American Journalism Review, Don Campbell tells
us to "think hard about the ethical choices one makes. What happens
to the guilty party - "dismissal? suspension? demotion? reassignment?
probation?" Is it worth the cost in terms of credibility, reputation,
accountability, professional trust and integrity? Is it worth the cost
in terms of now having all work - past, present, and future - subjected
to enormous scrutiny and forever tainted by questions of "whose
work has been compromised by the author this time?"