“Why Textbooks Cost So Much”

Che out the the following article, featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about why textbooks cost so much. Below are some key points, draw your own conclusions.

By Kenneth S. Saladin for the Journal-Constitution

Published on: 08/16/07

As a college biology professor and author —- someone who is both a creator of textbooks and a consumer when I order them for my students —- I know how vital the latest and most comprehensive materials are for obtaining a proper education in today’s increasingly high-tech and competitive global job market. I am also more conscious than most of how much work goes into researching, writing and producing a quality textbook.

[...]

The first edition of my book, “Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function,” took me four years and seven months to research, write, review and revise. And that was only the beginning. Even before the most current edition of one of my books is off the press, I’m already compiling notes for the next edition —- keeping up with advances in the science and adapting the writing and artwork to my classroom experience and feedback from users elsewhere. Revising the book takes between eight and 12 months, usually working nights and weekends to meet deadlines.

Time is not my only investment. The full-color visuals for the first edition of “Anatomy & Physiology” cost my publisher nearly $1 million, and continue to cost as much as six figures… Other costs involved… include updating the ancillary products, such as DVDs, Web sites, overhead transparencies and instructor’s manuals designed to accompany the book. These materials are free to the professor… but the costs of their development and revision every three years are included in the price paid by the student.

People sometimes ask me: “Why bring out new editions so often? How much can human anatomy change in three years?” …Every week brings new insights into the form and function of the human body, not to mention changes in the international terminology of the field… I subscribe to 14 scientific and medical journals and must keep my reference library updated… By the time I had settled into the actual deadline-driven writing of my latest edition, I had already compiled almost 100 pages of ideas for content changes, scientific updates and improving the clarity of the prose and illustrations.

Textbooks also cost more today because… Publishers are now providing more and more supplementary materials… Add-ons, now include extensive textbook-specific Web sites —- some offering personal tutoring and computerized testing —- online course material and student study aids in multiple formats, including print, CD-ROM, DVD and Web-based materials.

The textbook market is intensely competitive. If a publisher is not constantly updating books and finding new materials to bundle with them, its competitors will, and they’ll be the ones to win favor with demanding professors and students.

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