The future of the textbook

Thousands of textbooks lined along bookshelves | Globe SLCC

Alternative ways are being created to avoid the rising expense of textbooks.

According to an economic analysis textbook prices rose 186 percent between 1986 and 2004.

Full time students pay about an average of $500 per semester on textbooks.

“I don’t understand how the publishers expect students to magically come up with hundreds of dollars for one book,” says Blair Yuen, a Salt Lake Community College student. “It’s great to keep them if you loved the class but it’s a rip off not to be able to sell them back if you don’t intend to keep it or read it again.”

Textbook publishing can be lucrative. Pearson, one of the largest textbook companies, alone averages about 8 million dollars in their annual income.

A new player enters the business

Now Apple wants to get in on the multimillion dollar market of textbook publishing.

Recently Apple introduced its new iBooks textbooks for the iPad which allows students to download their textbooks for a fraction of the cost of the traditional form.

Five Universities around the country are starting pilot programs to use iBooks for all their required text in their classes.

Relief from Poli Sci faculty

The Political Science department at SLCC has been ahead on the textbook curve.

Professor David Hubert, Ph.D., took a year off during his sabbatical to write three textbooks that he uses for his courses.

He updates them regularly and adds new information every summer that applies directly to his students and plans to have them available in electronic format so students can download them to their Kindles or iPads.

“I wrote textbooks that are shorter and I hope more useful to students because I concentrate on the facts and concepts that I think every informed citizen should know and I develop those topics in a clear and relevant way,” said Hubert. “I did so for a number of reasons.

“First, textbook prices are simply too high for students.

“Second, nationally published textbooks are an extra bad deal for students because the texts are too long, causing the teacher to skip parts of the book for which the student paid money.

“Third, textbooks from national publishers take a shotgun approach to the subject and are invariably full of superficial references to every conceivable factoid about the course topic–an approach that overwhelms and confuses students.

“The fourth reason I wrote my own texts is that it keeps me much more engaged in my teaching because I have to be responsible for keeping track of new developments in the world of politics and incorporating those developments into my texts and my courses.”

Another professor in the Political Science department, Professor Josh Gold, Ph.D., referred to what a colleague of his called the “Wal-Martization of higher ed in America.”

“Not only do students face tuition costs that rise annually more than inflation,” said Gold, “but there’s an enormous capitalist marketplace that allows the massive publishing corporations to quickly buy up virtually all the used or old copies of a text whenever they’ve convinced an author to put out a new edition of their widely used course textbook.

“Then the corporations get to charge more for the latest edition which usually contains little more than different graphics and illustrations and small changes in the text.

“It’s a racket structured to ensure their ever-increasing profit margins, stock price on Wall Street and the continued domination of the college textbook marketplace. It’s capitalism at its core.”

A future without textbooks

Professor Susan Knott, a communications professor at SLCC, sees a day when textbooks will become obsolete and how one day we will all be telling our grandchildren that we used a thing called a textbook.

“Instructors will come to prefer iBooks once they realize that they open more options for interactive learning and encourage students to engage more with the course materials,” says Knott. “One of the biggest problems instructors face is that students do not read the textbooks and if they do it is with minimal effort. It is not unusual for students to ask me if they even need to buy the textbook.

It pays to shop around for textbooks

text savings for Math 1010 class

Intermediate Algebra: Concepts and Applications 8th Edition by Bittinger & Ellenbogen

For Hardcover
College book store: New $178.00
College book store: Used $133.50
Amazon: New $120.03 + free shipping
Amazon: Used $40.00 + $3.99 shipping Rental $21.93 + 3.97 shipping

Spiral Bound
Amazon: New $42.74 + free shipping

Intermediate Algebra: Concepts and Applications 7th Edition
Amazon: New $116.81 + free shipping
Amazon: Used $0.28 + free shipping

“Whenever I need help with my iPad, I hand it over to my 2-year-old granddaughter and she shows me how to use it.

“We love to read books together and I believe hard copy books will always be a huge part of our cultural tradition but there is no question that she is going to do the majority of her learning in an iBook format.”

Shopping around

iPads and iBooks may be the wave of the future in the classroom, but shopping around to get the best deal on textbooks may be the best route to go in the interim.

SLCC Students don’t need to wait for the first day of class to find out what textbooks they’ll need. They can compile a list of textbooks on the student link of their mypage account.

Also, websites such as and can help students compare and find the best price.