lowering the outrageous cost of textbooks

This article has a long list of sites that try to help students.

I’ve tried to avoid text books.  I think that one can put published material on a user-restricted site.  In any case, I’m about to scan some text and put it up in Blackboard for students.

Last I heard, my university signed an agreement with Barnes and Noble that no only made them the university’s book store, but also prohibited faculty from telling students about other sources of books.  Not that anyone is going to pay any attention to that.  I mean, you know faculty.

10 thoughts on “lowering the outrageous cost of textbooks

  1. how can it even be legal to prohibit a faculty member from saying, e.g., the book can be found on amazon? or in a library? ??

  2. mm: I should have been explicit: other sources for buying books.

    I do remember the whole situation being debated in very strong terms by the faculty senate. It had gone through the legal department, but I can’t remember what seemed to them to make it legal. It may be that universities, or some universities, have the ability to enter into contracts for their faculty. And perhaps businesses for their employees.

    Of course, it does seem exactly the opposite of what a university is supposed to be about.

  3. It seems to me that for most philosophy courses textbooks are completely unnecessary because you’re either reading journal articles or historical sources, both of which are available online. I don’t use any any textbooks for my Analytic Phil course: I like articles to the class website. If I were teaching a history of philosophy course I could get all the readings online: they’re in the public domain. The trick is to make it friendly to end-users by linking in a tidy, structured way to the class website. And I don’t like Blackboard, WebCT or any of these other commercial products either. It’s much easier to put up a website, using e.g. templates from Dreamweaver, and just do it. It’s not more challenging technically: it is quicker and EASIER.

  4. Harriet, I actually dislike Blackboard, but I’m pretty sure that putting the material on a publicly accessible website violates their copywrite. Do you have a solution to the copywrite problem? (It doesn’t exist for old texts.) I have in fact a somewhat flexible attitude to white color crime, but I’m reluctant to have my students know that.

  5. In regards to “Last I heard, my university signed an agreement with Barnes and Noble that not only made them the university’s book store, but also prohibited faculty from telling students about other sources of books.” I would like to know if this is really true, or just a rumour.

    The reason is that (unlike many academics) I have been a big supporter of B&N. B&N was the force behind making ebooks available on many devices, not just their own proprietary ereader. Amazon had to follow to compete, and this stopped Amazon.com’s initial attempt at a monopoly that would have limited access to many ebooks to ONLY people with Kindles. B&N started the practice of free ereader apps for their books, which also read many other formats besides their own. They also provide free wifi for anyone at all, customer or not. They sponsor author events, reading groups, and children’s book-related events in many locales where there are no small bookstores around to do so, and where libraries are shrinking their hours. I realize the issue is complicated and they are not exactly a charity, but I have felt they deserved some support for some of these things.

    If, however, B&N is trying to keep faculty from even mentioning other sources, I will rethink my support for them.

  6. My university’s library has access to hundreds of journal articles through these big database sites like JSTOR and MUSE. If you can find modern journal articles that you want to use, the students would be able to have free access through the library.

    Being the old fuddy-duddy geezer that I am, practically all of my assigned reading material is available in the public domain on The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org)

    And have you ever weighed one of those $75 textbooks? Those suckers are HEAVY.

  7. another philosopher: yes, at least it was true when I heard it. As I said in #2 above, it was debated in the faculty senate. I was an active member at the time, and there really isn’t anyway this is not true. We have the university legal officials, etc, on the carpet.

    I’m afraid there are all sorts of things like this going on. Academics generally tend not to do the details of financial arrangements for food services, book stores and commercial things at universities. I shouldn’t think for the minute that B&N is somehow unusually guilty.

  8. Maybe, you could get around the gag rule, by saying something like this to your students:
    “Oh, I’m prohibited by the adminstration’s lawyers from telling you about other possible sources for your textbooks beside Barnes&Noble, but you can take five minutes now and discuss some of the possiblities yourselves.”
    If you have WiFi and permit laptop use in classroom, even better!

  9. JJ re copyright issues. My library, like most academic libraries, provides faculty and students with password protected access to all philosophy journals. I link to these articles as they appear in the library’s journal databases. When students hit the link they’re prompted to input their library barcode–which, after the first time, they can store for no hassle access.

    In addition, many current journal articles are up legally, and with free access, at their authors websites. Journals in which I’ve published even if they get copyright allow me to put up a version of the article at my own website–which I do.

    Finally, our library–in consultation with faculty at our law school–makes it possible to legally put material that can’t be gotten in either of these ways up for a semester on password protected reserve. There’s actually very little material that has to be treated this way, but it constitutes “fair use” and is perfectly legal.

    In addition to dislikeing WebCT Blackboard and such because they’re klonky and hard to use they restrict access to members of a given class and I think one of the things we want to do with our classes is show them to other students so that they can decide whether they want to take the class, or use the material for other purposes, and to other faculty as part of our collegial enterprise.

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