Sunday, January 30, 2011

Webber from Weatherford Learns the Hard Way About Editions.

Oh dear, sweet Jesus at the Bookstore!

Because many of my students struggle to pay their way through my middle of the road regional college, there are always book questions. They try not to buy the most recent edition, and score older books at pennies on the dollar. I admire it, really. And every once in a while when someone pleads with me to let them NOT buy the current edition, I say "Go ahead."

And then this semester happened.

The current book I use is in its 8th edition. By looking at, Amazon, and Alibris, I see the 7th edition available very cheaply, some more than 80% cheaper than the current offering.

Then I had a visit from Clark. He has the 4th edition. It looks like someone ate it, digested it, washed it off in a mud puddle, and then stitched it back together just for me and Clark. Clark needs to know where my reading assignments are in his edition, but Clark doesn't even have all the pages of the 4th edition. I'm flipping through mine; he's flipping through his. Sometimes I see chapter titles that are the same, but then exercises are different. Sometimes whole sections of the new book simply don't exist in his.

Cleo, who has a 7th edition, offers to help.

Cliff, who has a 6th edition finds that his is more like Clark's than like Cleo's or mine. This, I tell Cliff, doesn't help at all.

It's a minor thing, I know. I know I could have angry students, non-communicative students, students with attention deficit ... what was I saying?

But it's my misery, and I'm going to stop entertaining the "old book" club.


  1. A few years ago, I used to be nice in a certain class when the authors released a new $$$ edition. However, there were so many minor changes (subtle, but substantive for content), that I had to be firm on the new version after the semester.

    [While it could be urban legend, I think my "Commonwealth" has some rule about allowing students to use a prior version, I sure don't want to end up on the kooky conservative Guvnah's & AG's hitlist. Students can buy what they want (including a "Dick, Jane, & Sally" Reader, but homework problems/exercises and readings come from the standard, current text.]

  2. Now you know precisely why I no longer allow students to use old editions. If the text I'm using is an 8th edition, every student is required to use an 8th edition. Any work turned in from any earlier edition will be marked down, if it's different from what's required from the 8th edition.

    I used to be more lenient about this. Why is it that EVERY time I go out of my way to be kind to a student, I am stabbed in the back for it?

    Regarding your guvnah & AG: if they give you any trouble, you should LOUDLY point out that what they're advocating is using OBSOLETE texts. That wouldn't have cut it in the post-Sputnik years, and it won't do now. You can bet they don't do that in China today!

    (See, you can master this form of discourse too, with practice. I used to do this quite a lot during the Cold War, and it's all coming back to me now. Your guvnah, of course, will be unlikely to know what, if anything, they do in China, today or at any other time, nor will he have the ability or attention span to find out.)

  3. I allow them to use the previous edition since for the most part the texts are not any different. I love when students come up to with just random basketweaving book that may or may not have survived the Civil War because, like, ya know, theories and junk don't change! The flakes think as long as it's on the same overall subject, it's great. They then get mad at me when I tell them no.

  4. I've had students buy and read a DIFFERENT BOOK by the SAME AUTHOR and then get confused when the quizzes bear no relation to the material they read. Of course, this is MY fault. I try to tell them that reading the same author is not the same as reading the same book (well, it shouldn't be, at least). This has happened more and more over the last two years with students buying texts from sources other than the bookstore. Is it REALLY too much to hope that they'd get both author and book name correct, let alone edition number?!!!

  5. I actually had the opposite experience a few terms ago. The admin people called up a few days before class all apologetic about having several editions in the bookstore, a bunch of the students getting the wrong edition, etc. I thanked them for their concern, but basically felt that I wish that were my greatest problem. I rarely use the exercises in the book. The book serves to provide general background information. If we talk about the interpretations found in the book in class, it doesn't matter if a few students have the author's slightly re-formulated ideas about baskets. I am not having them memorize definitions verbatim. It simply doesn't matter most of the time. If the core examples in a particular chapter change, okay, it might be a problem. But it doesn't matter for how I run the class if Sunshine has a five paragraph discussion of reverse handle weaving and the rest of the class has the four paragraph discussion of it with a picture. In history classes or something, the primary source readers have to match. The rest just has to be in the same ballpark.

  6. I can't understand how a student might bring in a completely different book by the same author and think THAT is okay. Were you dropped on your head?

  7. @ Reg W. - Maybe they would get it if it weren't a book, but something they are familiar with. When they bring a completely different book, we can propose an exercise: "We're going to watch Saving Private Ryan to prepare for the exam on Schindler's List. They're different movies, but they're both Spielberg and are about Europe in the 1940s, so it shouldn't matter."

    They will at least know what a movie is and often be able to distinguish one from another. So even if they don't know those particular "ancient" movies, they might get the point.


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