Law prof Ian Ayres has a thought-provoking op-ed in the NYT today about $150 textbooks. Because textbook publishers have law professors as consumers, not end-users, pricing may not be competitive. Many professors do not choose a textbook based on price and may not even know what the retail price of a textbook is. Prof. Ayres likened the situation to pharmaceutical companies and physicians in the prescribing of medications. Another similarity for that analogy is marketing practices. I get a ton of free books from law publishers. I use a handful. I have been on the crim law list at one publisher for three years, and I have called repeatedly to get off the list with no luck. How much does this practice increase the price of books? (As an aside, I have toyed with the idea of assigning B-school books for certain courses before, but the books are more expensive and the complimentary copy policy much more strict.)
Prof. Ayres also confesses to a conflict of interest in assigning his own textbook and vows to reimburse his student his $11 royalty. That's fairly remarkable. I'm safe in that my textbook is in a field that I no longer teach in, so I don't have to be shamed into matching his offer!
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