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Do you think professors should take a more active role in lowering textbook prices?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on March 29, 2007

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Photo of Riley Parker

“Yeah, definitely. It think it’s unfair that students have to pay such outrageous prices. They should ask themselves if we always need to buy the newest version of the book or if they can put more of the reference materials online.”

Photo of John Flaherty

“Definitely. I have plenty of books that I’ve never even used or the teacher only referenced them once or twice. I could’ve easily gotten the information another way, and I can’t return it for the full refund because I already opened them.”

Photo of Molly McHenry

“I think they should. Our biology professor lowered the cost of our book by a ton. So thumbs up to Craig Martin. I think other professors should try to do so as well.”

Photo of Stephanie Cullinane

“Sure. It’s expensive enough to go to school here. The cheaper the books are, the better.”


BOE 11 years, 2 months ago

Harrumph. Quitcher complainin', it could be worse! ;)


Grumpy Old Man:

I'm old and I'm not happy. In my day, we didn't have video-games! We just sat around and watched a potata' bake!

Everything today is improved and I don't like it. I hate it!

In my day we didn't have hair dryers. If you wanted to blow dry your hair you stood outside during a hurricane. Your hair was dry but you had a sharp piece of wood driven clear through your skull and that's the way it was and you liked it!

You loved it.

Whoopee, I'm a human head-kabob!

We didn't have Manoxidol and Hair Wings, in my day if your hair started falling out when you were 16 by 19 you were a bald freak.

There was nothing you could do about it.

Children would spit at you and nobody would mate with you so you couldn't pass on your disgusting baldness genes. You were a public menace, a crome dome by age 20 and that's the way it was and we liked it!

We loved it! Hallelujiah look at me, I'm a bald freak oh happy day!

Not like today, everybody feeling good about themselves. I hate it!

In my day we didn't have these thin laytex condoms. So you could enjoy sexual pleasure. In my day there was only one kind of condom. You took a rabbit skin and wrapped around your privates and tied it off with a bungee cord and you couldn't feel nothing!

And half the time you didn't even know your partner was there. And we used the same one over and over again! 'Cause we were ignorant morons!

Just a bunch of hairless, head-kabobs standing around with rabbit skins on our dinks and that's the way we liked it!

mick 11 years, 2 months ago

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Zbigniew, happy birthday to you.

Ceallach 11 years, 2 months ago

Yes. They should only require students to purchase the cheap antiquated books and then violate copyright laws by putting current and cutting edge information online. Professors should also lower the cost of campus maintenance.

Another good question would be . . "Do you think the person teaching your class is a professor?" Odds are against it. Our graduate students carry the university's teaching load. Everyone seems to know that except the undergrads.

Ceallach 11 years, 2 months ago

a piece of well researched journalism about "just about anything" would be enlightening and refreshing :)

trinity 11 years, 2 months ago

maybe instructors could be just a tad more discretionary when selecting texts. i remember having quite a few rarely used texts, i think my darling hawklet (KU student) is experiencing the same thing.

prioress 11 years, 2 months ago

They can't control the cost, but they could only ask you to buy books they will really use in the class.

mom_of_three 11 years, 2 months ago

My class is a discussion class on one topic, but there were several books we refer to constantly, and if I bought them new, it would be over $100. I found them used and saved me over 2/3. Of course, they're not textbooks and I am not looking forward to that purchase. One of my three will be going to college soon, and I am not looking forward to that, either

betti81 11 years, 2 months ago

The cost of textbooks is outragous. By my junior year I stopped buying most of the books. Most of time I never read them anyway. I just went to class and the teacher lectured on a majority of the stuff anyway. Pointless for the most part. I loved the teachers that made the book they authored required reading for the course. Best marketing move ever!

Lorrah 11 years, 2 months ago

While the cost of textbooks is ungodly, professors and book stores can not control for the prices which publishers charge for books. The next time you want to get your panties in a bunch, call the publishers to complain about the fact that they "update" books every year so they can charge more for them, and we can't buy used copies of the updated books.

badger 11 years, 2 months ago

I had a professor in college who required us to buy a $120 cell biology book and a $35 cell biology book. He referenced the more expensive book twice, and we had less than thirty pages of reading assignments out of it, information he could just have given us in class. We used the less expensive book extensively.

The mystery was solved when an enterprising student checked the credits. Our professor was listed as a 'contributing author' in the more expensive, more specialized book, and when asked he admitted that he received 'a small royalty' for each book sold.

I understand that it's hard to teach without books, that copyright laws should be observed, and they don't set market prices, but I'd kind of like it if they didn't deliberately do things to increase the cost to students for their own gain.

Also, Ceallach, I agree that people don't realize how much of the teaching graduate students are doing, and that it's a problem.

beatrice 11 years, 2 months ago

BOE: One of my favorite lines from David Lynch's Film "A Straight Story" is this -- young guy asks the elderly lead in the film "What's the worse part about being old," and the old guy retorts "Remembering when you were young."

For you to go on and on about how old people are unhappy today because as youths they didn't have all the electric destractions presently available is pretty silly. Not only do most appreciate the fact that they didn't have to endure the constant bombardment of noise and visual trash forced on people today, but you -- god willing -- will some day be an old fart yourself. And how sad will you be when your arthritic thumbs won't let you continue to work all the electronic stuff you have grown to rely on.

Oh, and sure, professors should be mindful of the costs of texts and make sure they are necessary before asking students to shell out the bucks. Also, at most colleges, including KU, all money earned from selling self-authored books to students must be returned to the school. The professors don't profit.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 2 months ago

As others have noted, I think professors should take a more active role in teaching.

cyclelust 11 years, 2 months ago

Yes- I had a biology professor who taught an intro class with 1000 students. He negotiated between two publishing companies and finally got what would be normally an $80+ textbook priced down to $45 for the students. They made a special book just for the class at half the price. Especially when a large quantity of books are guaranteed to be sold, publishers listen to the professor. Professors can make a difference, and should play a more proactive role in helping their students.

LittleMissFlea 11 years, 2 months ago

Funny thing about Craig Martin-he actually costs students more money then he saves. An $80 textbook that's used around the country (and by the other professor who teaches it in the spring) has buyback value. His textbook is worthless the second the class is over. When I took his class, he just told us to return the book because the tests were from lecture only.

Pywacket-Used book dealers won't buy copies of books that have new editions out, so the only buyback available is on that campus only. Not every student sells their books back to a campus bookstore, so the number of books available quickly dwindles.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 2 months ago

I am behind! I didn't know you were promoted to Katie's little helper! Congratulations!

TOB, the tornado that killed the couple near Beaver, OK, went right by where my brother works at Northern Natural Gas. I called him this morning and he was standing on the road looking at what was left of the people's trailer. Pictures show the tornado passing 1/2 mile from the NNG plant.

So far, and yet so close. I guess there were tornadoes in Meade and Montezuma. Ashland and Greensburg are alive and well.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 2 months ago

I found a book by Thurber and one by Oates lying around my house that undoubtedly some crazed non-professor foisted on me. Anybody know where I can sell them cheap?

If I mow the lawn today will I blow away?

lmm 11 years, 2 months ago

Truly, an investigation should be made into the benefit for the professor for a text book they are involved in producing....conflict of interest.

trinity 11 years, 2 months ago

ss if the one book was by HALL instead of thurber i'd be your huckleberry-then i'd have a set of HALL&OATES!!!

or as we like to call 'em down south, here-haulin' oats. ;)

katie tornadie needs her bumbershoot today! it's gonna rain&rain&rain&rain&well-you get the picture.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 2 months ago

"Teaching is too often considered a necessary evil for Profs and it shows."

Why don't we free them from that evil and introduce some honesty into the system? Let's not require professors to teach at all. Let's have all the classes taught entirely by GTAs, and let the professors do whatever it is they do when they're not distracted by classes.

GSWtotheheart 11 years, 2 months ago

Beatrice-your information is NOT correct in relation to profs at KU not being able to profit from self-authored books. That is flat wrong and I don't know who feeds you your info. I work at KU. I work in a dept. with professors that author their own textbooks. Textbooks are written and sold, then three years later, they are revised, and more are sold. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 4 profs in my dept. who write their own textbooks and make over $100,000 each time. NONE of that money goes back to KU or the Dept. NONE. Why? Because a textbook is not the intellectual property of the university, it belongs to the prof who wrote the book. Any money they make is their income and they have to pay taxes on it because of that. This may not apply to other schools but I know for a fact that this is how it is at KU.

beatrice 11 years, 2 months ago

GSW -- I didn't say they can't profit from their textbooks. It was my understanding that they just can't profit from the ones that are actually sold at the university in which they work, and that any of that money actually does go back to the university. This is usually a small fraction of the total royalties derived from textbooks -- a prof would need a LOT of students to make $100K off of the students they actually teach directly. I remember a case where a prof I knew was inadvertantly questioned about this very thing, despite the fact that she contributed many times that amount every year.

However, I could be mistaken. Any profs who write textbooks out there to help clarify?

beatrice 11 years, 2 months ago

Looking back, I guess did say that -- I just meant something slightly different. see above

sunflower_sue 11 years, 2 months ago

sgt, maybe you should write a book on what you've learned about photography. I'd buy it...but since I suggested it, I'd expect a signed first edition for free. :) (and a very small % of the royalties for being cited in your "thanks to" paragraph.)

Adrienne Sanders 11 years, 2 months ago

click on "intellectual property policy for the Lawrence campus." GSW is correct, royalties are paid to profs for textbooks.

The weird thing is, I was in school over ten years ago, and the average bill for textbooks now seems about the same as it was then. At least where I went to school. (not KU)

beatrice 11 years, 2 months ago

Thanks dulcinea -- I stand corrected.

Flap Doodle 11 years, 2 months ago

The 2007 revised edition of "Snaps's 100 Ways to Cook Cane Toads" contains one new sentence in the introduction. "These things are poison & can kill you dead!"

sgtwolverine 11 years, 2 months ago

Sue, that book would consist of four points: 1)Buy fancy gear 2)Aim camera 3)Press button 4)Don't suck

A second edition could include a fifth point: 5)Use Adobe Lightroom

Jace 11 years, 2 months ago

The whole "excessively-priced college text book thing"....and the whole "mere pennies on the dollar buy back program" that book stores employ at the end of each semester has been--and continues to be--a scam!

One thing's for sure....this topic sure ain't new!

sunflower_sue 11 years, 2 months ago

sgt, I think you would have to clarify point #4. I'm already intrigued!

snap, sounds like your book is worth about $87.35. If you team up w/ sgt to add some photos, you'll double that. Don't let the publishers undercut you. I expect a free copy from you, also, 'cause I'm all about free!

BOE 11 years, 2 months ago

beatrice 9:35 a.m.

" For you to go on and on about how old people are unhappy today... "



It was just an old SNL transcript I'd recently found with one of my favorite Dana Carvey characters, "Grumpy Old Man" ... I just assumed that most we're familiar with it, but probably should have credited it anyway. At any rate, it wasn't intended as levity at the expense of the elderly.

bevy 11 years, 2 months ago

TOB - you know that Dana Carvey had a serious heart condition and surgery a few years back, dontcha? That's why his career dwindled. He nearly died.

I never sold any of my books back, except the one for EVIL ALGEBRA. I figure if I ever want to know anything about Chaucer, or the Civil War, or Child Psychology, I have the resources. But mostly because I thought it was stupid to give up a $60.00 book for 2 bucks.

Oh, and having attended Washburn University (Go BODS!) I never had a GTA. I had full professors teaching my classes, and fortunately, they seemed to love doing so. My brother went to KU for a while. His biggest horror story - a calculus class that met in Hoch Auditorium. Over 400 students. Taught by a GTA - he never mentioned a language barrier. Just said that it was impossible to learn anything that way. He transferred to WSU.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 2 months ago

I'm clearly out of the college book loop (been a few years), but what with internet and all, isn't there someplace on the net to trade or sell books locally?

Did anyone notice or mention that San Francisco has banned plastic grocery bags and that there is even a school in SF that has banned homework? (And we thought Lawrence was ban happy!)

bevy 11 years, 2 months ago

Me too! Will Ferrell needs to quit while he's behind.

Tony Kisner 11 years, 2 months ago

OTS - Do you think professors should take a more active role in lowering textbook prices?

Hmmm. Let's see I'm a book seller, got a new edition of a book with little changes and I am paid on commission. - Dear Prof, Even if you didn't author this book I can assure you a royalty for each one sold - No questions asked.

Maybe the question should have been - Take a LESS active role in the textbook process.

What accountability does the Prof have? - None.

southerngirl 11 years, 2 months ago

My father is a retired University professor. I know he spent a great deal of time looking at his curriculum and deciding which text would be most appropriate or if a textbook was even necessary. My primary professor in my Master's program not at KU) created her own textbooks from papers, exerpts and writings from other authors (cited and used with permission) that were relevant to her curriculum. We rented them directly from her for something like $20 and if we returned them, we got all of our money back. I actually kept several of her "textbooks" because they were more useful and practical than many of my textbooks from other classes. Like those mentioned above I had many bad experiences, but just wanted to note that there are a few good professors out there! d

GSWtotheheart 11 years, 2 months ago

Again, the profs do profit off their books even when they are selling their self-authored books to students they teach at KU. I'm sure the bookstore gets a cut for handling the sales but the rest of the money still goes to the profs. I know this for a fact because I work at KU and am in a dept that has some prolific textbook writers. One of those profs had Printing Svcs print his textbook for his large class (around 1000 students) and the bookstore sold it for him. He then received the lion's portion of the proceeds. Actually, this same prof's textbook(s) have been sold on the KU campus, all across the country, and it has been translated into other languages. That is how he makes over $100,000 each time he writes or revises his textbooks.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Katie! I'll get below ground and put football helmets on my kids and be sure I have enough food and bathtubs full of water to last me the night and I will duct tape my windows in case the rain and tornados cause radioactive fallout.

Katie Horner for President!!!

southerngirl 11 years, 2 months ago

My dad never made a dime from the textbooks that he selected for his classes. ARe you saying that some profs make money off of books that they DIDN'T write, or just the ones they authored?

beatrice 11 years, 2 months ago

BOE -- no wonder I didn't get it, I never thought Dana Carver was that funny.

Just a day of mistakes on my end. I'll try harder to be on the ball tomorrow.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 2 months ago

Sue, clarification for point 4:

Don't suck. Unless you are actually taking a picture of a big fuzzy blob, your pictures should not feature big fuzzy blobs. Unless you are actually taking a picture of the sun, your pictures should not be completely white. Unless you are actually taking a picture of an empty unlit closet with black walls, your pictures should not be completely black. If they do feature large fuzzy blobs or are completely white or black, you are sucking. Stop immediately.

Also, if you live in an empty unlit closet with black walls and you are married to a big fuzzy blob, I beg you: please do not take pictures.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 2 months ago

sgt, that's perhaps some of your best work yet! Seriously consider taking it to print. :D

sgtwolverine 11 years, 2 months ago

Sue, I shot soccer for the first time today. When I shoot a sport for the first time, part of me often feels like I'm sucking pretty badly. I'm hoping to stop immediately. And I hope not to start again when I shoot water polo in a couple weeks.

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