October 24, 2005
More on Academic Textbooks
Posted by Christine Hurt

Apparently academic textbook suppliers do not want us to be rational maximizers.  They want us to take a broader view.  I posted awhile back on Ian Ayres' editorial regarding conflicts of interest in textbook adoptions by author/professors.  Relatedly, I received with my course adoption form today a newsletter from "Follett Higher Education Group," which manages the Marquette campus bookstore.  (The Illinois bookstore is named "Follett's," so I assume that it is owned or managed by them, too.)  On the last page, under the heading "Why shouldn't I send my students to online sources so they can save money?" have to be the lamest answers to that question.


The publisher's sales rep who may have visited you, helped you select the materials for the course, and processed your requests for complimentary copies does not get credit for the books your students buy online or from other sources.

You mean the sales rep that doesn't make an appointment but either knocks on your door when you're trying to prep for class or just slips his/her card under the door while you're in class? That sales rep?  Hmmm, I can think of an easy way to solve that problem. The sales rep, who if you are in conversation, says, "Do you still teach BA? Ok, I'll make sure you have a copy of everything we have." That's not an efficient use of resources that I should honor by making my students pay more for a textbook. Not to mention:

Remember, too, that we contribute to your campus in many ways -- from paying a percentage of sales to the institution, to employing people in the community (including students), to paying state taxes, supporting campus groups and clubs along with providing added value services.

I think the bottom line is that these companies once invested resources into creating an organizational scheme, marketing plan, and distribution system that may or may not be the most efficient way of delivering product in this new technological era. I notice that Encyclopedia Brittanica doesn't send people door-to-door to sell 70-volume sets of the encyclopedia anymore. I guess they hadn't thought of this clever shaming technique.

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