September 16, 2005
Ian Ayres on Law Professors and the Rising Price of Textbooks
Posted by Christine Hurt

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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