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Opinion: Are professor-written textbooks worth the cost?

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Textbook costs are a topic of debate among many OSU students. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Textbook costs are a topic of debate among many OSU students.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Many of us are familiar with that feeling of despair that comes each semester when new textbooks drain our already low bank accounts. The National Association of College Stores estimated the average student spent about $370 on course materials for Fall Semester 2013, which is only a fraction of our financial burden as college students. We rent, borrow and sell back books to soften the blow, but this becomes impossible when classes require textbooks that are created specifically for that course.

These professor-built textbooks have to be bought through Ohio State and, unlike noncustomized textbooks, we often can’t rent or sell them back because they frequently change from semester to semester.

I’m skeptical of these textbooks, and there’s debate over whether they’re worth the extra expense. Marc Ankerman, senior lecturer at Fisher College of Business, said he believes that they are. His goal as a professor is to provide information for his students that is up-to-date and relevant, and he thinks that crafting a textbook is the best way to do so.

“We (Ankerman and other lecturers) select the articles and readings to create a textbook that is custom-designed,” he said.

Some of us might suspect that our professors are profiting from the textbooks they put together, however Ankerman said he doesn’t receive any money from the books he creates for his classes, asserting that his “main goal is to have tools that are helpful for the course.”

Joanna Cook, a second-year in business specializing in operations management, said the textbook used in any given class is irrelevant.

“My learning experience is based on the professor, not on the textbook,” she said.

Cook said instead, professors should keep the textbooks consistent for a few years so they can be sold back to OSU bookstores. Ankerman said he tries to keep the same book for up to a year and a half, but his objective is to present his students with the most current information possible.

However, if all professors adopt Ankerman’s attitude of prioritizing their students’ education over making a profit, I think their prices could be driven down.

“I can definitely see how these books could be really beneficial. But if my professor is using them to make money, it makes them seem less reliable and I think this distracts from the goals of the class,” Cook said.

If students aren’t putting money directly into their instructors’ pockets for course-specific textbooks, they might have a greater appreciation for the books. After all, a textbook tailored to fit the needs of a class can undoubtedly be a great tool.

I might not have the most favorable view of the books, but they serve a purpose. Whether it’s profit or education or something in between, it is up to our professors to decide what that purpose will be.

One comment

  1. I’ve always just used http://downloadfreecollegetextbooks.com/ and haven’t paid a dime lol

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