Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jadwa the Junior Poses An Undergrad Thirsty on The Textbook Shuffle.

On the morn of the day before book buybacks, the head of the program sends out an email informing all of us students that the edition we've all been using (and I mean all - this program is a four semester general ed requirement) is out of date and the bookstore will not be buying them back.

He hopes we will keep them and treasure them forever. No shit.

Q: Is it appropriate to tell him to go fuck himself?


  1. Not to his face, no. Textbook revision cycles are well out of the hands of your instructors.

    And, though we rarely admit it, most of us think that our chosen textbooks are worth keeping, at least for a few years.

    The fact that bookstore buyback begins weeks before the end of the semester continues to disturb me deeply. I understand that some final exams won't be comprehensive, that some classes don't require or aren't appropriate for final exams, but it just feels like a huge "you are a speed bump on my road of life" sign.

  2. Potato in his car's exhaust pipe.

    Infect his computer with a virus.

    Cherry bomb his mailbox.

    Horrifically brutal Keyser Soze revenge:
    Kill him, his wife, their children, any relatives, his business parters, and friends. Then vanish.

    "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world He didn't exist."
    - Roger "Verbal" Kint, "The Usual Suspects"

  3. You know, I'm about to change the textbook I've been using for a large lecture class for a few years now. I've found a much better one, which was not out a few years ago when I chose the one I use now. And I care more that my students next year have a good textbook than I care that my students this year should be able to flog their old textbook. Sue me.

  4. The program head? Nah. In this case, he's just a cog in the machine. Most likely, he got told he was changing books, whether he liked it or not. After all, textbook publishers do like to change editions just in time for someone to figure out what got changed last time around—you know, like how facebook monkeys up its user interface at the very moment people forget about how much they complained about the last round of changes?

    So no. Spare the head. Aim for the publishing company—especially their accounting/financial division. A nice steaming box full of Nasty delivered right to their beady-eyed CFO, who's probably pushing the changes to pad (what passes for) the company's bottom line should do the trick.

  5. Oh, grow up.

    Back in my day, they rarely bought back any books. At least at my schools.

    You used it for 4 semesters, fer chrissakes!

  6. I second The _Myth. Book buyback didn't exist when I was in college. And I never once got to use the same book after one semester. Consider yourself lucky, and go get a real problem.

  7. List it on Amazon or eBay at the start of the next semester. Some class at another school will be using it.

  8. This is a classic example of "kick the dog." Books change for any number of reasons:

    1. A department committee votes to change them. The head may not have been allowed to vote or may have voted against it.

    2. The book has a new edition coming out. In those instances, we're often held hostage by college bookstores, who insist they "can't" get enough copies of the old edition to meet our students' needs and force us to switch to the new edition.

    3. The current book is indeed out of date because some important information has changed that's needed for the field.

    4. The book is going out of print altogether.

    So unless you are sure your head is directly responsible for the change, keep your mouth shut.

  9. @Froad and Myth,

    Back in your day, I bet the textbooks weren't hundreds of dollars each, either. I do not envy the undergrads and their costs these days, over double what I paid when I was them so recently. I thought $60 per textbook was high. Now the same books cost $150.

  10. I never wanted to sell my textbooks. I, you know, like, KEPT them and used them in the future. I was incredibly poor but books mattered to me. If they don't matter to you, you might ask yourself why you're in school.

  11. Definitely *don't* take it out on the head unless you are 150% certain that he made the decision and that it wasn't a committee, a necessity because the textbook (or that edition) is no longer available, etc. I've had students come after me for decisions that were not my own -- not necessarily textbook stuff, but curriculum stuff -- and all it does is create ill will.

    Going after the head won't change anything, and you will just make yourself look bad. Also, department heads talk to other faculty, and this is the kind of thing that would *definitely* get discussed. So, you will come across looking like a jackass not only to the head but most likely to the whole department. (Or the whole school if it's a small institution.)

    Unless you know everything there is to know about how and why that decision was made, and unless you have an air-tight argument, this is a definite no-no.

  12. I still have some of my favorites, they're well loved and well used to this day, even though they may be over 20 years old. Gasp!

  13. One reason I'm switching books is that the old book was $65, and the new one is $31.50. Plus I can get the publisher to package it with some other stuff to get the students a better deal.

  14. Sell the book on amazon. You may get more back that way anyway.

    There's really only reason to get mad at the person who made the decision if you know the texts aren't significantly different. We seriously tell our students not to buy Edition 2 of a text, when 2 pages changed between 2 and 3. Guess what? That blows. I quietly let people know that in my class if you can get the second edition for cheaper, go for it.

    However, if it's a major revision then, well, it's a major revision. Sell the old one on a used book site.


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