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With 'Access Codes,' Textbook Pricing More Complicated Than Ever

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the google-rms-right-to-read dept.

Education 400

jyosim writes "Some see it as the latest ploy by textbook publishers to kill the used book market: 'access codes' for online supplements for course work. In some cases professors require students to purchase these codes in order to even see the required homework. One U. of Maine's student's struggle to find a reasonably priced textbook demonstrates the limits the new publisher practices put on students, but some argue that ultimately the era of digital course materials will be better for student learning."

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A shocking discovery (-1, Flamebait)

Mr. Disappointed (2722485) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222039)

Friends and followers on the Slashdort web site:

I am almost at a loss for words. What I have discovered in the past days has shaken my world-view to its foundations.

As you know, I have been a consistent, sometimes even strident voice denouncing whatI believed to be Italian subterfuge and infiltration against the Internet and related things, from soup to nuts as they say.

Then oneday, a few days ago, I was perusing oldfamily photo albums when I discovered a picture and birth-certificate of a heretofore unknown great great grandfather of mine!

His name -- I still can hardly belive it: Giuseppe Pescatore Puzzolo.

This changes everything.

Please bear with me, it will take time for me to extract the rational and revolutionary core ofmy liberating message from the cloud of anti-Italian confusion from which it once seemed so inseparable.

In the meantime, boungiorno a tutti!.

One thing remains solid in this disorienting spiritual earthquake: my undying love for you, Laura. Ciao!

Dear God It's "For a Free Internet" Again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222069)

Hey buddy, listen, your shit is shit whether it's posted under your old name [slashdot.org] or this new one. Slashdot editors, can we get this guy's IP address banned or something? What a waste of time and mod points.

Businessmen (5, Insightful)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222041)

They hate that you have the advantages they did in school. Now that they've crossed the bridge, it must be burned.

Re:Businessmen (3, Insightful)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222067)

It's the baby boomers. They grew up in the drug-fucked 'free love' Sixties, got free education, raped and pillaged the environment, robbed their kids and grandkids in the asset bubble.

The "bugger you Jack, I've got mine" Baby Boomer generation are the worst generation. We should take their pensions and health insurance off them, let them die in the gutter and use the pay to pay off the deficit.

Re:Businessmen (4, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222207)

Jeez... Generalize much?

Re:Businessmen (5, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222349)

Yes he does, but he also describes an actual measurable trend(which doesn't apply to individuals, only the groups in general). There has never been a greater wealth gap between the 55+ demographic and the 18-35 demographic in the history of the united states. And it's REALLY substantial: take a look here [pewresearch.org] . Now I'm not agreeing with the GP's Hitleresque means of addressing the problem, but it IS a problem.

Re:Businessmen (5, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222471)

The Boomers was really a short sited generation. Their fight to stay young and relevant, created a situation where there was poor if any succession planning. Previous generations when they got into their 40's or 50's they realized they were getting old so they shifted their work from going further, to slowing down and teaching the next generation on how to take the helm. The Boomers were really the first youth culture, and they tried to keep it up as a generation of young go ambitious high energy people. Now their bodies are getting older and falling apart due to trying to keep the youth idea running. And not thinking towards the future generations but to themselves. So us Generation X and Y are fighting to take over, often overwhelming due to no training. We are making old mistakes over again, because we haven't been passed down any wisdom.

It isn't about stupid politics, or how big a business is or how much taxes they pay... It is a culture where Me First was used. Now they are still in power and they don't realize how short sited the quick profit is.

Re:Businessmen (5, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222523)

The Boomers was really a short sited generation.

But at least we learned spelling and grammar. :)

Re:Businessmen (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222721)

The Boomers was really a short sited generation.

At least we can handle homophones.

Re:Businessmen (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222563)

What is a 'wealth' gap? Who decides there is a certain amount of wealth that each age group is supposed to have, what are those numbers?

Ok, so those in the 55+ demographic are the ones who started and built back in the 70's/80's many of the recognized companies that exist today and in doing so they made some good money. That is exactly what they intended to do. Wonder what their incomes looked like 20-30 years ago when they were building their businesses (either as early employees of founders)? I'd be willing to guess their incomes were not much different (in 70's/80's dollars) to today's youth, but their standards of living were probably lower.

So to the 18-35 crowd who hasn't made as much money I'd ask, where are the companies that you started? Where are the years of hard work you put in building wealth?

Re:Businessmen (3, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222715)

The point is that the ratio of income from the two age groups is further out of whack then it ever has been, so the older generation is holding on to more wealth rather then the younger one advancing like they normally would. In other words they are putting in the same years of hard work as the previous generation, but not getting the same amount of reward.

Also:

I'd be willing to guess their incomes were not much different (in 70's/80's dollars) to today's youth, but their standards of living were probably lower.

That is part of the point, their incomes WERE different. They were doing much better then people of similar age today.

Businessmen my ass (5, Insightful)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222797)

What is a 'wealth' gap? Who decides there is a certain amount of wealth that each age group is supposed to have, what are those numbers?

Nice strawman. It's not about "deciding" how much each group is supposed to have (in a moral/deontological ethical way). It's about the gap between the two groups that is measurable (and thus comparable/quantifiable) accross the decades. The gap is there, it's measurable, it's obvious, and it requires explaining. Yours is not an explanation by any stretch of the definition. Furthermore, you are asking "who" "decides" how much each group has. That same question begets the following one: who decided that the income gap must be greater than the ones in prior decades/generations?

Ok, so those in the 55+ demographic are the ones who started and built back in the 70's/80's many of the recognized companies that exist today and in doing so they made some good money. That is exactly what they intended to do.

This would be nice and dandy if these were the very first folks in the history of the US who made up companies that made money. Alas, they were not. There were businesses and businessmen before them, quite successful and their companies still exist today. And yet, the generational income gap present at the times preceeding the Baby Boomers was never the way it is now. Hand waving is not a valid argument.

Wonder what their incomes looked like 20-30 years ago when they were building their businesses (either as early employees of founders)? I'd be willing to guess

Why guess? Verify.

their incomes were not much different (in 70's/80's dollars) to today's youth, but their standards of living were probably lower.

So if their income weren't that different from today's youth (which is not true), and their standards of living were lower (they were), then the income gap as measured today is greater than what it was in the past, say, as a function of the decade in which the measurements took place.

So to the 18-35 crowd who hasn't made as much money I'd ask, where are the companies that you started?

Red herring. Not every Baby Boomer was an enterpreneur, and yet the gap between the average Boomer and the average Gen X/Y is greater than the gap that same Boomer experienced with respect to his then senior. Ergo, enterpreneurship is not a factor. It is if you want to present a fallacy as a logical argument, though.

Where are the years of hard work you put in building wealth?

Where were the years of hard work the Baby Boomers put when they were young that resulted in a narrower income gap with relation to their then seniors, narrower with respect to the currently observed income gap?

Not a problem for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222635)

Don't speak as if you speak for me. I'm 38 and well under the national average salary (look it up), and I hold absolutely no jealousy, envy, contempt, or even dislike for those who earn more. So you can count me off your team.

Re:Not a problem for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222857)

I thought I was in your boat too, making under the average salary.

Then I actually looked it up; turns out I make more than average. What the heck?

Re:Businessmen (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222247)

That's what I don't get. Somewhere along the way the "help everyone achieve anything," free-love, equality and peace messages turned into "Fuck you. I made my money and now that I have to pay in, we need to remove the social safety nets. OH, and not just that, but I'm going to make it that much harder for you to make as much money as I did."

I understand that it's cliche and all-too circular to blame the generation before you for the world's problems, but the baby-boomers really fucked us. Raw.

Re:Businessmen (4, Insightful)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222483)

This happens with every generation. The self-centered jerks reveal themselves as time goes on. The politicians are businessmen are mostly self-centered jerks.

Re:Businessmen (3, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222735)

Personally, I put it down to the Boomers deciding that Rules Are Bad(tm). Yes, the powerful can manipulate the rules to their own ends. Yes, rules sometimes prevent you from doing what you want. But sometimes, rules are all that prevent the powerful from simply taking everything they want. Sometimes, rules are the only thing preventing a person from acting like a self-centered asshole. Rules are necessary; they just need to be *good* rules.

Re:Businessmen (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222611)

It's the baby boomers. They grew up in the drug-fucked 'free love' Sixties,

And?

got free education,

So did my kids. So did you. College? Nope, we had to pay, too.

raped and pillaged the environment,

We were the generation that got the Clean Air and Clean Water acts passed. It was our parents and grandparents' generations that raped the environment; actually, not OUR parents but the rich kids' parents... who are now fighting for the end of the environmental regs we fought for.

You sound like an unemployed white racist who blames blacks for his troubles and the black who blames whites for his poverty, when it's the rich of both races that are to blame. It's not my generation, it's the rich of all generations. Mitt Romney's "I like to fire people" isn't an opinion held by many boomers.

The "bugger you Jack, I've got mine" isn't my generation's attitude, that's Mitt Romney and Donald Trump's income level's attitude.

You're fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong war.

Re:Businessmen (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222637)

To rephrase what you wrote, "your sweeping generalizations are wrong because my sweeping generalizations are correct."

Re:Businessmen (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222837)

> You sound like an unemployed white racist who blames blacks for his troubles and the black who blames whites for his poverty

Lulwot?

What are you smoking -- and are you sharing?

Re:Businessmen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222071)

Sounds like the mindset in the US republican party

Re:Businessmen (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222195)

Well.. Paul Ryan in particular. The government helped him through his tragedy with social security payments which he smartly used to get through school, and now he wants to be sure no one else can pull themselves up in the same way.

Re:Businessmen (5, Insightful)

The Second Horseman (121958) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222673)

Yeah, but Ryan isn't a baby boomer. He was born in 1970, so that either puts him on the tail end of Gen X if you've extended past the "original" timeframe used for that term, or else early GenY. As a slightly-older GenX, I couldn't stand this kind of jackass 25 years ago, and I can't stand them now. He's clearly in love with himself, and how clever he thinks he is, and he somehow doesn't think he's relied on other people to get there. And let's not forget that he's only managed to get a couple of pieces of meaningless legislation (naming a post office and lowering excise tax on arrow shafts) through Congress in 14 years..

Hell, he even thinks he's brilliant enough to reconcile Catholicism and Objectivism. That's a level of mental contradiction that's only possible if you're shallow or delusional - or you're just a power-hungry, cynical political hack who doesn't have any real principles.

Re:Businessmen (5, Interesting)

jehan60188 (2535020) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222115)

criminals. textbook publishers are criminals
schools have already put into the cost of my tuition fees for maintaining blackboard. now the publisher turns around, and creates a similar site, with less functionality, and less support, and they expect me to pay for it. professors don't mind- they get free access, and the publisher will go ahead and put together a syllabus/homework/etc, so they have less work to do at the cost of the students already taxed pocket book
criminals

Re:Businessmen (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222337)

It is Ohm's law applied to social dynamics: Whenever there is something you are internally compelled to do, the processes will arise that will force you to pay to do it. Even if you just happy for no reason, your happiness will be deconstructed and you will be offered to restore it in some buying way. Therefore, during the course of your life, you will see many of your rights, as well as Good Things In General, swept away from your hands in one way or another and placed behind the walls with restricted access. Governments will tax them or ban them, or highwayman^Wbusinesspeople will captivate and privatize them and sell them (or surrogates) back to you. If we were all to abandon our pur(cha)suit for happiness and just sit and meditate, it would have been claimed antisocial and dangerous activity.

Re:Businessmen (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222653)

I think it's called a "Steve-job".

Re:Businessmen (2)

jythie (914043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222691)

As the saying goes, beware the advice of successful people, for they do not wish company....

Much of the rhetoric I have seen lately (which oddly enough seems to be branded as 'pro-entrepreneur".. then again the small business community has traditionally been a political sucker ) seems to be focusing on shutting down things that help people advance by people who have already benefited from it.

But that is part of a hyper-capitalistic mindset...personal gain is what one optimizes for, not advancement of the group, to the point that even things that hurt others more then you are considered 'good' since one comes out relatively better.. which is why businessmen make lousy economic planners.. the mindset is all wrong.

Better or worse? (2)

Stachybotris (936861) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222107)

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, but I'm fairly confident it's better than when the professor writes the book you use for class.

Seriously though, what programs require crap like this? I never had textbooks with such insane restrictions in any of the science courses. The closest it came was a CD-ROM filled with microphotographs and a few animations that came with my sophomore-year microbiology textbook.

Re:Better or worse? (5, Informative)

Wandering Voice (2267950) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222193)

I'm back in school again after nearly 15 years and almost every book sold at the school bookstore was shrink wrapped with an access code. The worst offender I have encountered so far is my Math 060 book for Pre-Alg - after tax $233 (Pearson Learning Solutions). Alone, the access code was $120 about on the shelf behind the counter. This code and computer access is required to get our class notes and do our homework assignments. Thankfully, I didn't have to buy the iClicker remote for another $40. Still for a basic class like Pre-Algebra, I find this disgusting.

Re:Better or worse? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222221)

Still for a basic class like Pre-Algebra, I find this disgusting.

I find it a retard tax. YMMV.

Never buy from the student bookstore (3, Informative)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222333)

I always tell my students to NEVER buy from the bookstore. Always go to Amazon or an online textbook reseller. You will save a TON of money. It's my experience that you can generally save 50% or better by shopping anywhere else. That $120 code you bought at the bookstore goes for about $80 at Amazon.

Re:Never buy from the student bookstore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222429)

Even that 80 is too much. Just 15 years ago an 80 dollar BOOK was considered high.

My wife just took a class. The class cost 230. The book was 280. WTF...

Re:Never buy from the student bookstore (2)

FFOMelchior (979131) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222617)

Wish every prof was like you. My gf is now taking a class where the professor requires them to take notes in the book. And the kicker? He also checks beforehand to make sure there aren't any notes written already. Which means she has to spend $120 to buy a new one at the book store, instead of the .50c (+ $5 shipping) to get the same textbook, same edition from Amazon. Complete bullshit.

Re:Never buy from the student bookstore (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222825)

Your gf's professor is scum. Nothing more or less.

Let me counter with an example from my physics degree at a top-ranked UK university. There were no books "required" for any course. Each lecture course came with a list of recommended text books - they were books that the lecturer found to have a good presentation for part of the syllabus. In most subjects, they were 20-30 years old - sometimes older. Electromagnetism hasn't changed in that time, nor has classical optics, or statistical mechanics, or undergrad quantum mechanics, or relativity.

The text book is not the syllabus, though. The syllabus is a paragraph of text. Typically no one text boko had complete coverage. Homework problems are exam questions from previous years - no need to buy a text book to see those - and if you can do the problems from the previous 10 years, you're in pretty good shape.

Re:Never buy from the student bookstore (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222669)

That's still OUTRAGEOUS. There is no reason on Earth a pre-algebra book should be more than $20 for a soft cover in new condition AT ALL. It's certainly not a fast paced ever changing subject and knowledge of it is far from rare. If public schools are being robbed like that it's no wonder we spend so much on education and get so little in return. As for the access code, it sounds like a really good business case for the school itself to set up a simple website to take care of it. Perhaps it could go in with a few other schools to divide the development cost.

Looking at it from an economic standpoint, if they're going to double the cost, the students better be able to learn twice as much (or learn it in half the time) or it is simply not worth it. I'm guessing neither of those conditions are even remotely true.

If the U.S. REALLY cared about education, it would make sure that no public school (including state universities) ever permitted such crap.

Re:Never buy from the student bookstore (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222805)

I did that. Worked decently well except in my Statics class - somehow I got the International version instead of the US version, so all the problems were in meters and newtons and sensible units instead of inches and pounds. They kept each problem generally the same, but the numbers were all wrong (and not even just converted - the US student would see a 12-pound force on a 2-foot beam, while I would see a 400-newton force on a 3-meter beam).

Which would have been fine with me, except I was the only one working on those problems. Made homework a bit of a challenge (thankfully the professor let me get away with it, as long as I wrote what numbers my version of the book was using and I did the problem properly (thank you, Professor Khan!)).

Re:Better or worse? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222595)

The worst offender I have encountered so far is my Math 060 book for Pre-Alg - after tax $233 (Pearson Learning Solutions).

Wow, that's almost tragic. That would make textbooks for one and a half or two years of study during my studies. The college did its own publishing, no fancy glossy paper, but the contents was there (and some of the textbooks were top-notch - some weren't, but really, nobody expects anyone to write a better local textbook for Calculus when Jarnik reigns supreme around here).

Re:Better or worse? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222199)

None of the dead tree computer science textbooks I used had any of this crap. (some of them are still sitting on my bookshelf even today)

Re:Better or worse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222663)

The general course computer science books are decently priced because there is plenty of competition. For the more specialized ones it is not the case. My computer vision book that I picked up (not required thankfully) was $150 at the cheapest. They will be good for years as well. Ideas don't age.

Re:Better or worse? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222261)

It is not better if the professor writes the book for you to use in class. Sure, there is only one way to teach Mathematics, Physics or the like; but when it comes to the social sciences and humanities, there is a very thin line between fact and opinion. I remember that I once asked the maths department of a University I once attended why they chose one particular Calculus book over another, their answer was because the book I was proposing was written in part by one of them. The Psychology department was different though... The professor made us buy his own book, needless to say that he was an arrogant prick and we never looked eye to eye.

Needless to say also that if a professor pushes students to buy his own book for the class, he is also pushing his financial gain by artificially creating demand for a product that may otherwise have not sold well. This can be viewed as a conflict of interest as well.

Re:Better or worse? (4, Interesting)

schroedingers_hat (2449186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222269)

I had a prof who used one of these as part of a package deal type thing they got along with some (arguably very good) other resources. When people from the class told him about the issues involved (buying used books, strange deadlines, OS/screen size/browser requirements etc) he removed it at the first opportunity (sadly not during that course, as once something is set in the paperwork as part of the course assessment it cannot be changed here).
Sometimes treating your prof as a human being works, try it some time.

Re:Better or worse? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222411)

What stops the students from sharing an access code?

I didn't have to buy *any* books for university. There were plenty of copies of anything "important" in the library (with a portion of them not available for loan), and most lecturers just gave a list of 10 or so books, only a few recommended one book over all others. One lecturer once set questions from a book, about half an hour later a student sent an email to the discussion list for the course with a scan of the relevant page. The lecturer forwarded it to the whole class. (I actually bought the book, I thought it was interesting.)

It was this book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/MACHINE-LEARNING-Mcgraw-Hill-International-Edit/dp/0071154671 [amazon.co.uk] which is £34 / $54.

On Amazon.com the paperback "International Edition" isn't sold; the hardcover is $163 http://www.amazon.com/Machine-Learning-Tom-M-Mitchell/dp/0070428077 [amazon.com] How's that free market? ;-)

Re:Better or worse? (3, Informative)

cjb909 (838363) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222503)

The access code typically allows you to create an account, and may be necessary to submit the homework. You can't share the codes because each student needs to submit their own assignments.

Re:Better or worse? (2)

murder_face (2574275) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222475)

Just had to buy my wife a book book for basic biology. The book itself is readily available on the internet, but the text that the professor requires is the SAME(page for page) book just an edition for her school that has the professors name as the author and a $140 online access code. The biggest kicker though is that her schools edition is a loose-leaf in a binder so the students can't sell it back at the end of the year

Seen this in person (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222111)

All our math courses at my university require this now. While the software is good, I do feel sorry for the students--in that it makes it very difficult to buy a used book. At the bookstore all the codes and books are packaged together. To buy them separately, you have to go somewhere like Amazon.

Re:Seen this in person (5, Interesting)

truesaer (135079) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222191)

My Chemistry professor last year told me each year the faculty votes on which book to use. The book publishers all come in, give a pitch, bribe them with gifts, and also provide canned lectures slides and assignments for the professors who don't want to prepare on their own. Thats how they get professors and universities to agree to this shit. I wouldn't be surprise if there is a full on kickback to the universities too...

Whenever I see this "you need to have this special software provided only by the book company to do assignments for [extremely basic course]," that's a sign your university and/or professors sold you out.

Re:Seen this in person (2)

berashith (222128) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222347)

I recently had to put up with this for a nonsense "speech" course. I bought a used book, then found out about the access codes on the first day of class. You could buy access codes separately, but the teacher announced on the third day that all codes had a problem, that she would circulate a single code to the entire class, but in order for any work to count, students had to being in a receipt from the college book store. No other choice was given. It was pure extortion.

Abolish copyrights and patents (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222117)

All patents and copyrights must be abolished and all of a sudden all of these problems go the way of a Dodo bird. Government must not be allowed to create monopolies, be it monopolies in utilities, in any creative materials, in any products and services.

I know that there is a huge number of people that disagree, then again, there is a huge number of people that don't understand the concept of freedom, the reason to have government in a supposedly 'free' society and anything about economics.

Re:Abolish copyrights and patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222147)

Congratulations on writing that in response to one of the few cases where abuse by publishers isn't enabled by copyright, and would actually get worse if copyright were abolished.

Re:Abolish copyrights and patents (3, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222189)

Of-course this is enabled by copyrights, without copyrights anybody would be able to buy the access code (or however they get it) and then republish the text on a free website. Done.

If the publisher doesn't understand how to provide value, then others would do it for him if there were no government laws about copyrights. So you are clueless, but as I said many times - most people don't understand anything and not much can be done about it.

Re:Abolish copyrights and patents (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222373)

All patents and copyrights must be abolished and all of a sudden all of these problems go the way of a Dodo bird.

Heh.. Every once in a while you get it right, but sometimes you gotta call in the cavalry to deal with the corrupt local sheriff. And, since access to natural resources and rights of way is a birthright, we need them to protect us from the local corrupt industrialist that tries to claim exclusivity of those resources. One of the ways to do that is to have feds provide the service itself. Strong vigilance is needed to keep the feds in line, revoke their power when they abuse it (this is where the general public fails miserably), but on the whole they are very much needed to ensure that those who take, give something back.

Mark of a shitty instructor (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222127)

Hey Kids!

If your instructor is doing something like this to you, he/she is an asshole. If you can run FAR away or, if you can't avoid the person teaching, be cautious at every turn. If a prof is inflicting this type of B.S. on students then they another jerk you need to avoid in getting your education.

The unis that I have worked at are trying to avoid this every chance they get by developing their own online course system or (ugh) using Blackboard. Most profs I personally know do things to try to avoid extra costs to their students. This type of behavior is the mark of a jerk.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222249)

Oh.. and if the DEPARTMENT is requiring this (like we see in other comments here) I double down and say the whole DEPARTMENT is shitty.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222259)

This type of behavior is the mark of a jerk.

Or they helped write the book.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (3, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222359)

And no change to my point was needed.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (2)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222281)

At the survey level, individual professors and instructors don't always pick the books/codes themselves. Most 100- and 200-level classes have set textbooks and requirements for certain courses. An individual professor can only choose supplementary materials for these courses (at least at my university).

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (3, Insightful)

Loughla (2531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222299)

I've found that in most cases, the instructor isn't the one to blame, it's the university/college. In my experience, the instructors genuinely want to keep costs down, but an administrator has AN EXCITING NEW PROGRAM for your students to try. So, they mandate that all intro-level X classes use Y book with Z code. Now, obviously this doesn't stand in your higher level courses, but I have yet to see a higher level course that uses these codes.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222329)

This times a million!

All the good professors I ever had used cheap coursepacks written in-house and copyrighted by the University. Students paid only for the cost of printing and could do whatever they wanted with these things.

The worst professors used traditional text books. It was even funnier when they prescribed homework from textbook questions, as students always had access to teaching manuals with all worked solutions.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222437)

I really don't understand how this system works. Who is forcing the professors to always go with the new editions? Whats preventing them from using the same texts for many many years? I have always wondered if there is some sort of kickback scheme going on with the schools? I have seen very little extra value to online course work, I think its a gimmick.

Re:Mark of a shitty instructor (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222445)

Actually, I was forced to this kind of thing by my department (MyITLab). I hated it. The simulations are god awful (if a behavior isn't programmed in, it isn't recognized as valid, even if it works in MS Excel) and the website only works in MSIE and Safari. (I'm in Linux, so I have to launch Windows in a virtual machine just to access the course.)

However, I've come around to it a little bit due to student feedback. These types of websites give students the opportunity to resubmit assignments multiple times for a higher grade with instant turn around (which is not something that I can offer them.) When I polled students (anonymously) if they would rather have the opportunity to resubmit for a higher grade and have assignments graded instantly or have textbooks that were $80 cheaper, they prefered the access code.

These access codes are a kick back... but instead of giving the instructor money, they are giving the instructor back time that would have otherwise been spent on grading. (Which usually gets sucked up by more intense upper level courses.)

digital course materials (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222133)

Digital course materials will be better for student learning, but only if they are free (as in speech).

Rate them down (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222159)

Be merciless, there is always a kickback on deals like this.

"Is the most incompetent clod I have every had a course with going back to Kindergarden..."

Re:Rate them down (1)

Loughla (2531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222331)

Do you have proof? Or is this just tin-foil hat happy hour? I receive 0 kick-back from text-book manufacturers for the college courses I teach. I know 0 instructors on a 13,000-14,000 student campus who receive kick-backs.

Re:Rate them down (4, Insightful)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222447)

"Look you get this free web site..."

Please don't insult our intelligence, the e-sites reduce grading time. Charging your students for homework on top of tuition that is going up faster than inflation, and has for three decades, in the face of falling efficacy, is highway robbery of the young. You should be ashamed of yourself, but obviously are not.

Re:Rate them down (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222461)

I receive 0 kick-back from text-book manufacturers for the college courses I teach. I know 0 instructors on a 13,000-14,000 student campus who receive kick-backs.

I've never been a victim of systematic racism... Therefore, it doesn't exist.. Great logic!

Re:Rate them down (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222575)

Great job... (1)

LiroXIV (2362610) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222163)

You know, this seems to be the common solution to the "used book sales are worse than Piracy, how can we stop it?" problem. Even the video game industry has been pulling off this stupidity with their fixation on online passes lately. Nice job, bureaucratic commercial money-hogging idiots.

Textbook prices (4, Interesting)

kwishot (453761) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222241)

The access codes are just one part of a bigger problem: textbook prices. For one class this semester, I was able to purchase a Kindle, the $50 lighted Kindle case, and the Kindle version of the textbook for a combined cost that is less than the price of the hardcover textbook.

Also - it wouldn't be such an obvious scam if you could purchase only the access code and acquire your book from the secondary market. In all instances that I've seen, the access codes come only with new books.

I'm always tempted to blame the professors for choosing course materials like this; however, on more than one occasion I've heard professors complaining about pressure to switch to the latest edition. Pressure from whom? I have no idea...

Re:Textbook prices (1)

durdur (252098) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222341)

It is ridiculous. Because they have a captive market, textbook publishers just gouge students. Professors don't pay the cost, so they don't have an incentive to choose a cheaper book - but also, the fact is, pretty much all the choices are expensive.

Re:Textbook prices (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222421)

Sometimes that pressure comes from the campus bookstore, actually. If a book is on a new edition, it eventually becomes difficult to get used copies in sufficient quantities and quality for them to sell.

Re:Textbook prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222601)

I've never seen one where you can't get the access code without the book. (Probably not at the university bookstore.) And the online system usually has the textbook as an ebook.

Every time I've required a book with an access code, I've requested a custom binding for the university bookstore so that a new book with access code has been cheaper than a used book.

Re:Textbook prices (2)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222817)

Also - it wouldn't be such an obvious scam if you could purchase only the access code and acquire your book from the secondary market. In all instances that I've seen, the access codes come only with new books.

In all instances I've seen the online access codes are sold bundled with the new book, and separately alongside, so we the students are able to buy the book used, and buy an access code. Interesting that you haven't seen this.

I'm always tempted to blame the professors for choosing course materials like this; however, on more than one occasion I've heard professors complaining about pressure to switch to the latest edition. Pressure from whom? I have no idea...

All professors I've had share the sentiments of yours; they're apologetic about the book prices. But I'm at WSU Tri-Cities, the main Pullman campus makes the book decisions, so it's not up to the campus here which books to use; so posters above are likely correct in that the professors making the decision to use these materials are jerks.

Also, a note on the effectiveness of these systems. SOOOO much easier to cheat on homework. One book I have (http://www.wwnorton.com/college/chemistry/chemistry3/) is ridiculously easy. If you guess or use hints it lets you try again with no penalty (even the Mastering (http://masteringphysics.com and http://masteringchemistry.com/ [masteringchemistry.com] series gives a penalty for guessing or using hints). I can even type the question into Google verbatim and most times (read: every time so far) get the exact answer. For Mastering Physics, I can pull the answer straight out of the solutions manual, with only slight changes in figures (so I just recalculate, plugging in the new figures).

And it's way easier for the teachers to grade, because the system does all the work for them, all they're responsible for are lectures, questions, quizzes, and exams.

Oh, and on top of all these extra costs for online access kits, tuition just took another hike up. $5700 for 12 credits for me, after all fees. (Including a "Spcl Crs Fee" for EVERY course. What's special about it if every course has it?)

college is becoming a cash grab and we need better (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222257)

college is becoming a cash grab and we need better and quicker ways to learn.

Right now at some schools due to the way classes fill up and all the required classes what used to take 4 years can now take 5 years.

We need more tech schools and apprenticeships to take the load off of the college so it can go back to 4 years also added 2-3 year core only plans can help as well.

Re:college is becoming a cash grab and we need bet (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222289)

Well, as I've said before we need to uncouple job training and university study again.

University studies were meant for people that wanted to learn and study. Right now the whole meme is that you go to university to get a better job. There is nothing wrong with that, but that isn't what universities were created for. Not everyone should go to a University and there should be no shame in that.

Citation Of Fact Needed (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222287)

some argue that ultimately the era of digital course materials will be better for student learning.

And some say that The Stig has three testicles, but only uses one at a time in order to prevent sextuplet pregnancies. But, the statement has no basis in fact.

The web is not the least bit short of 'some saying' that digital learning is better than anything prior and those that question this "wisdom" are old luddites that fear change, lack vision and want to stymy progress. But, simply saying that repeatedly does not make it a fact.

I'd like to see some fact based scientific evidence that these new technologies and techniques do in fact provide better learning that before. Does the online material for Chemistry 201 genuinely provide better learning than the third-time-used and battered text book originally printed 10 years ago? I just can't see how it can. The actual course material hasn't changed and simply replacing a paper book with an ephemeral online copy of the same doesn't seem likely to improve learning.

I can see that the new online material can make for more profits, greater ease for professors, greater portability provided you've got power and internet where ever you go, and even greater ease for quick look-ups by students. But, none of those benefits prove greater learning. None of them prove faster learning, better retention, deeper or easier understanding...

But, despite the lack of proof; "iPads for all students" continues to be a daily headline where 'some say it greatly enhances education' and no proof is ever given.

Private Publishing and/or CC Licensed (0)

mx+b (2078162) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222297)

This kind of obvious grab at making money off of poor college kids (and the districts/states that pay taxes for those kids behind the scenes) makes me unbelievably angry.

Personally, I would love to start writing textbooks and self-publish them to get around this system. I've already done some basic lecture notes in certain subjects and given them to students, I can try to write it up during free time. Are there good creative-commons or similarly licensed projects to start textbooks in many college disciplines? I would like to contribute to such a thing and "evangelize" for them, for lack of a better term.

I suppose a major roadblock to this idea is that professors/departments/universities need to be able to choose the book for the course, and need to know alternatives, and need to know they are just as good if not better. I feel like part of the stagnation is the idea that a certain text is the "ideal" for a class. When I was in graduate school, we ran into that problem a lot. Professors taught from certain books because "it is the standard, even when I was in school!". They treated it like a right of passage, even though the texts were often the worst pieces of shit I've ever read. Or rather, tried to read. They weren't readable at all. They basically taught out of reference books that assumed you already knew the subject. How do we convince them that, perhaps the book is ok as reference, but as a first taste of a subject, we need better materials? Better in content as well as price. I have already tried to argue this point with colleagues, but often they simply respond "Well this is the standard in the rest of the country". It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's used because its used. It's popular because its popular.

just striking back against resale? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222309)

This sounds just like what the video game market occasionally pulls, with registration codes that come with the game that can only be used once, in an attempt to make resale of the product useless.

"First Sale Doctrine" says once you buy physical goods you can resell them without permission or interference from the manufacturer... but codes, they'll try to call them licenses or something like that to which FSD does not apply. So you have the textbook but can't access the quizzes that the instructor is going to be assigning, nor the references, nor the updates/corrections that they posted online, etc etc. Forcing you to buy a new book from them at the typically insane prices, just to get a code so you can do your homework.

Just another depressing bypass-consumer-protection-laws money-grab.

Re:just striking back against resale? (1)

murder_face (2574275) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222527)

The worst part of these "Access Codes" is that they expire. After the class is over the code is no good.

It isn't really the publishers fault. (2)

Toam (1134401) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222343)

If the professors are requiring that the students log in to some part of the text book publishers website to actually view a homework assignment, then that is very much the professors fault.

Writing assignments is not that hard. And I say that having just finished preparing the tutorial and assignment for the class I'm teaching tomorrow.

Re:It isn't really the publishers fault. (3, Insightful)

mx+b (2078162) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222537)

Writing assignments is not that hard. And I say that having just finished preparing the tutorial and assignment for the class I'm teaching tomorrow.

This is true. Professors that use online homework because they do not want to bother are incredibly lazy in my opinion. I write my own assignments to tailor them to our lecture discussions. I will even revise homeworks based on unique questions I get every semester. I applaud you for making your own tutorial for your class. I feel this is what everyone should really do... if they had the time.

The lack of time is partly also due to the overcrowding of schools. I have known instructors to get overloaded during semesters because the university doesn't want to pay to hire another adjunct (or to make someone full-time, etc). Not condoning it, but I can sympathize, having had overloaded semesters myself. Not even necessarily overloaded with classes, but the class sizes have become so huge that maintaining your own assignments and grading them by hand is an all day affair and you simply run out of time. At some point, I just have to stop grading because I realize I haven't eaten all day, or the laundry needs done, or dishes washed, or hell, sometimes I just want to be a human and spend some time with the wife or the cats.

I like being able to give direct feedback, and to know how my class is doing myself (in an online machine-graded course, all you have is statistics, but students can cheat or get the right answer by the wrong reasoning sometimes, and you cannot have any clue what they are truly thinking unless you sit and read their papers and grade by hand), but again I can sympathize with the lack of time to do such things. There's a lot of problem with this whole education system all the way up the chain, and while I am not happy with the proliferation of shitty textbooks and online testing systems, I think we should recognize that in many cases, this is not the sign of a lazy professor but an overworked professor. We need to overhaul everything, and I will be on record stating I do not mind paying more in taxes if it goes to fund professors directly to allow class sizes to be smaller, and instructional material to be more unique. Perhaps it will only begin to change if we all start to send statements to this effect to our congresscritters.

Shot a fart (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222357)

It's time. I shot a fart out my very own asshole! Directly out of it! Inconceivable! Unimaginable! It cannot be probable!

It must be because... this article is the absolute 100% incorrectness this minuteness. Why else would I shoot a fart out of my very own asshole and not someone else's!?

Just try getting an ISBN... (5, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222361)

I've been going around and around with Follett on this one. Under federal US law [1], colleges that receive federal money are REQUIRED to disclose ISBN numbers for course textbooks. However, the law also states that the school has the option of disclosing the ISBN numbers online with course schedules. So guess what? You actually have to register for a class at some colleges before you can get the ISBN. (This is, in fact, the case at Dallas County Community College District campuses.)

Except for Follett. Apparently, even after registering, Follett doesn't seem to want to disclose the ISBN. On top of that, if you call a Follett bookstore for an ISBN (or visit in person), the minimum-wage earning salesperson will politely tell you they are not ALLOWED to disclose the ISBN, you have to go online to get it.

More and more college bookstores are now closing the shelves to casual student browsers, so you don't even have the option of just picking up the book and looking at it for the ISBN.

[1]http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html#dcl

Yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222449)

I had a business plan writing class in school. There was a textbook - Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship - which I dutifully purchased and started reading.

On the first class, the instructor said that the book wasn't needed. The reason why he specified the text was because the department secretary kept pestering him that a textbook was required for the class.

Fortunately, the book he specified was only $22.

This was at GSU.edu.

Ben Franklin's Libraries have come to this? (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222405)

People in the textbook business should be ashamed. A reasonable profit and getting as many people textbooks that want to learn should be a goal.

And from a monitory standpoint, education is the single biggest payback society can invest in.

Why I Don't Require Supplements (1)

scruffy (29773) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222433)

It's not only the extra cost, but it's also a loss of control over private information of the students.

Don't even get me started! (3, Informative)

jittles (1613415) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222439)

I am getting ready to write a letter to my state and federal representatives over the current state of publishing in the US. This is clearly the same crap that game publishers are doing to inhibit the second hand game market. The most disgusting thing of all is what I am going to relate to you now about how the digital world is screwing over libraries:

I just found out from a friend that you can check out eBooks from the county library. I was insanely excited. I hadn't gotten my library card renewed after it had last expired so I filled out an application and was excited to go to the library the next day. Well in my excitement I decided to look at all the interesting eBooks I was looking forward to checking out. Their entire collection consists of 30 books. All of them books I had never heard of, and had no interest in. I was disappointed.

After a moment's consideration, I decided I would go to the library and offer to donate one of the following A) eBooks for them to lend out B) A few hundred dollars for them to buy new books. I talked to librarian about the donation. She wasn't sure that I could donate specifically for eBooks, so she grabbed the county employee responsible for eBook lending. I talked to her for about an hour and I am thoroughly disgusted with the publishing industry. Even more so than I was as a college student. Here is what I learned:

  • eBooks cost the library $800 per book.
  • Only 2 out of the 6 major publishers will sell libraries eBooks.
  • One of those two publishers only allows the library to check out an eBook 26 times before they must purchase the book again.
  • Every time a patron checks out an eBook, the library pays the publisher $5.

I understand the importance of copyright, but this is ridiculous. The people who get their eBooks from libraries do so because they can't afford the books, or they want to try before they buy. If they want to limit the number of times an eBook can be loaned out, then they should charge a reasonable rate for the books. Forbes even had an article a few months ago about this: What Is Going On With Library E-Book Lending? [forbes.com] and again just a few weeks ago. It just makes me so angry that corporations are able to pull this kind of nonsense. I was born in the wrong generation, I think. I miss the days of customer service, and fostering loyalty amongst your consumers.

Re:Don't even get me started! (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222801)

Maybe we should all kick in so a $10k check can be included at they will actually read it.

Video Game Online Passes (1)

ZeroSerenity (923363) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222441)

Looks like they couldn't stay in video games for long. I wonder if there's an XBL/SEN equivilant where online passes can be bought in the event of a used texbook.

It's DLC!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222453)

For your textbook.

Mathematics access code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222459)

Textbooks are an awfuly complicated and expensive requiement for college. One book in particular for discreet mathematics cost me $480. Not kidding. I drew out the last of my savings on that sucker.

Access codes? Access codes have actually made one class affordable.

I'm currently enrolled in a math class that requies a textbook and bundled access code for online material. Our professor uses the online services for homework and quizzes. Found out that it also gave me access to the book online in a flash module too.

Cost of the online access code? $80. Cost of the textbook? $150-250 depending on where its bought. Personally I'm opting for the $80 solution.

Stewart's Calculus book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41222473)

I'm sure most of us have had experiences with this guy and his calculus books, but he's made a fortune off of updating his book every year, getting students to shell out big bucks, all in the name of enriching textbook companies. Its not as if a calculus textbook from 20 years ago wouldn't work just as fine.

Some schools do have text books as part of the cla (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222493)

Some schools do have text books as part of the class costs so there is no added fee for them.

cooperate? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222515)

Don't any of you people cooperate?

20 years ago trying to charge over 90 cents per page when a xerox was something like 4 cents resulted in one guy buying the book and everyone else carrying in stacks of photocopies. Traditionally the guy who bought the book and did the photocopying sold the copies for a six pack of beer, at least thats how we did it 20 years ago. Then he was obligated to host the "back to school party" using that beer. Anyway, as for homework, I would imagine one guy could print out the coded homework for everyone else or you just pass the laptop around at study sessions?

I'm sure this will eventually be "invented" by the current generation of college students and heralded as an amazing new innovation no one has ever thought of before... each generation of teens think their generation invented rebellion, music, sex, and now, photocopying, and of course the old fogies never did anything like what they're doing today... ha ha ha

I suppose the electronic countermeasure is to put quiz and tests online behind the purchased codes, but that sounds like a PITA for the professor...

Re:cooperate? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222651)

actually having the tests and such be done via the Online part is a great convenience for a Teacher sinc eall he has to do is admin the stuff (unlock homework/quizes and such) and then dump the scores into the grade book.

Grading -- by an unapproved website? (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222605)

Can these types of deals be attacked because of the grading systems operated by the publishers? The publisher is not only grading but also maininting and reporting grades for students.

Have any of these grading systems been vetted? Approved by the various education bodies? Surely, the schools have their own system and there is policy that allows for grades to be recorded by another system?

Re:Grading -- by an unapproved website? (1)

murder_face (2574275) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222789)

Not the I condone the antics of all of these "Hacktivist" groups, but wouldn't pearsonvue.com be a much better target than Sony? Or do they leave them alone because none of them are in college yet?

Corrupted Professors (1)

IMathGood (2722541) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222627)

When I was in college I had two classes where the professors taught from a book that they had written. The first one felt so self-conscious about this that he would refund his royalties to any student who presented him a receipt showing they bought the book. The second put all the homework in tear away sheets at the end of the book and wouldn't accept photocopies, forcing everyone to buy his book new. I never reported the second guy to any ethics board and I still regret it.

Haven't we been here before? (1)

Slugster (635830) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222823)

In a past article asking why kids are still carrying around heavy bookbags when all their books would fit onto a 2gb USB drive, I mentioned that the textbook companies actively refuse to publish e-book versions. They are fighting this every step of the way, and they have methods that the entertainment industry can only dream of.

"Enhanced textbooks" (2)

OldSport (2677879) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222829)

"But the latest textbook enhancements, which require individual access codes to get to bonus materials online..."

Yeah, just like you can get your "enhanced" DRM-crippled DVDs or e-books with "bonus" content. Throw in a little extra crap to take peoples' attention away from the fact that they're paying more for a crippled version of the same old product.

DLC for textbooks? (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#41222831)

I guess the game people are trying it, although having instituted day one dlc I no longer buy new games, since the $8-10 dlc reduces the games resale value by the same amount. I don't buy used games anymore either, because they're still priced at the same point they used to be, and I have to buy $10 worth of dlc to get the full game.

Similarly, I suspect that if the textbook companies play too many games, our smart college kids will figure out how to circumvent them.

Why every kid in america isnt carrying some inexpensive tabet full of all of their textbooks, school work and tests is a mystery to me. If we wanted to stimulate the economy, when HP was crapping out of the tablet business why didn't someone ask them to donate their touchpads (and make more!) along with developing educational systems and curriculum that would be usable tools nationwide, and make a permanent investment in our future, along with dropping education costs through the floor? Give HP a nice fat tax cut for their troubles.

What a wasted opportunity. We kept people busy doing busywork instead, most of which has little to no future value.

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