Friday, July 16, 2010

Rant - Textbooks. Proceed with caution.

So, I had a little epiphany tonight about textbooks. As I sat reading page 358 of my international business text, it occurred to me that this was the first class in which the syllabus called for the entirety of the text to be read. Now, if I were a freshman or sophomore in high school that would not be an issue. But I am finishing up a masters degree. Which means I have more or less 18 years of education. I say more or less because that doesn't include preschool or extra years of college or the fact that technically I dropped out of high school and got a GED. But I digress...

The point is, I have had about 18 years of education and have yet to use a textbook to it's entirety. So W-T-F am I paying these ridiculous amounts of money for? Let's discard the elementary to high school years, as the State bears that brunt (another issue entirely) and focus on post-secondary education. The particular book I am reading is a new edition which retails for $162, but I bought an international version for $70 (which is identical except softcover). Other books I've purchased have ranged from $60 used to $195 used. This means that at a minimum I have spent $120 per term (2 classes) for 8 terms (quarters) of grad school ($960) and $240 per term (4 classes) for 8 terms (semesters) of undergrad ($1920), or a whopping $2880 on text books*.

Of those 48 textbooks I purchased, I have read (been assigned) approximately 50% of the content, which means that about $1440 has gone to absolutely nothing. It's killed a few trees and it's paid a few scholars, but there has been no benefit to me whatsoever. $1440 is more than a months mortgage for me - this is not cool. Personal hurt aside, wouldn't it make sense for these textbooks to be broken up into manageable chunks that can actually be utilized? Instead of purchasing 3 separate $60 texts on marketing with 24 chapters each, couldn't I buy 3 separate volumes of the same book for $20 each?

The whole point of this rant is to say this: Houghton-Mifflin, MacGraw-Hill, Thompson-Rueters, et al : I am on to you. And someday I am going to start a business (based on your teachings) that will change the textbook industry and take you down. So be on your toes. In the meantime, back to page 359.

*Assuming I paid for a used or international text. Had I paid retail and we can assume double the price at $8,640 total

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