ajnabieh: The text "don't ask me, I'm a grad student." (grad student)
[personal profile] ajnabieh posting in [community profile] academia
How much do you think it's reasonable to have undergrads spend on books for a class? As a student and/or as a professor?

For faculty, what are the factors you use to determine how much to assign? Need for a comprehensive textbook? Availability of books used/in library/in digital formats? Level of the class/% of majors in the class? Classicness of the books?

I'm starting to think about my syllabus, and looking at two possible edited books. One is a decade old, easily available used, and much cheaper. One isn't published until halfway through August, and twice as expensive (and brand new, so no used copies). It'll help once I get my inspection copy of the new one to see if it's worth the extra money, but still. And then, there's the single-author classics in the field--what if I want to assign two or three chapters? Where do I cut it off?

(For reference, of the three courses I've taught previously, one had no purchased reading (all scans, sucks to be me), one had "buy or borrow or find on Project Gutenberg any version of these classic texts," and one had two books totaling less than US$30.)

Date: 2010-07-25 12:17 am (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
It depends a little on the field. I've seen a lot of science courses get up over a hundred. Humanities courses seem to group closer to $50 or $60, but for this fall my students will have to pay around $70 if they get all the books new. I try to hold it down below that, but my god the prices a coursepack will run these days! As an undergrad I recall budgeting about $60 per course for textbooks and usually having a night's pizza money left over, but I also went to a school on the quarter system. I think I actually paid more per year than my current students (on semesters) do.

Date: 2010-07-25 01:31 am (UTC)
trouble: Sketch of Hermoine from Harry Potter with "Bookworms will rule the world (after we finish the background reading)" on it (Default)
From: [personal profile] trouble
I think students are more likely to buy the texts if they're less expensive.

Date: 2010-07-25 02:14 am (UTC)
vlion: cut of the flammarion woodcut, colored (Default)
From: [personal profile] vlion
If the student doesn't use the book, they shouldn't pass. They are in college, they can suck it up and buy the book.

Date: 2010-07-25 03:02 pm (UTC)
tea: Barbara Gordon/Oracle, pushing her hair back. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tea
I think this would depend on the course and field. If it's English Lit and they didn't read it, uh, yeah, if it's Statistical Mechanics and the course notes and better than the book, that sure as heck isn't true!

Date: 2010-07-25 06:18 pm (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
My exhibit design class in grad school required buying this hideous coffee-table book on industrial design which we a) never cracked for class and b) was full of hideous stuff that I would never in a billion years try to apply if I became a professional exhibit designer.

I'm still trying to get rid of the stupid thing.

Still kind of bitter about the $400 of textbooks for my undergrad vert zoo class, too. If I had known better I would totally have found someone to share dissection manuals with. I was just lucky I didn't have to choose between food and textbooks.

Date: 2010-07-25 02:13 am (UTC)
vlion: cut of the flammarion woodcut, colored (Default)
From: [personal profile] vlion
I would say that $125 should be an upper limit; a $125 selection should ideally be something that will be useful after the college career.

A book that is this-class-only should be 'reasonably cheap', say, under $40. Ideally. A set of $60 books is not unheard of.

Date: 2010-07-25 06:11 am (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
I can't speak from a professorial point of view, but I did spend, hmmm, $300 or $400 on books for my vertebrate zoology class in undergrad, and it did not make me a happy camper. (I got back $45 at buy-backs because most of that was dissection manuals they would not buy back and I did not yet know about Half.com.)

I guess I would say up to $150, but I was a science major and we tended to have more expensive textbooks. My history classes tended to have one or two non-textbook books and a lot of articles, and by the time I got to upper-level science classes it was all papers. I had two Russian textbook for the equivalent of two semesters (although it later turned out that material was normally spread over three courses and my instructor was just...intense).

Date: 2010-07-25 06:14 pm (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
I pretty routinely spent $70-100 per class; the price of being a science major, although thankfully I did discover Half.com partway through, which helped a lot. I think under $50 was more typical for other classes.

No idea how much reading I was assigned a week. Since I did most of undergrad on a block plan (3.5 weeks per course, one course at a time), everything was seriously compressed.

Date: 2010-07-25 09:37 am (UTC)
sibyllevance: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sibyllevance
I majored in English and during my first three years, I picked classes depending on how much the books would cost. I had no money and the little I managed to make during the summer holidays paid for the absolutely essential books. My parents couldn't help so I didn't have much of a choice.

Date: 2010-07-25 01:25 pm (UTC)
sibyllevance: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sibyllevance
It's very considerate of you. Try to see if the library carries some of the books you're going to ask for, maybe? I rely a lot on the library. Good luck!

Date: 2010-07-25 03:06 pm (UTC)
tea: Barbara Gordon/Oracle, pushing her hair back. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tea
For the classics, if you are really using less than ten percent of the book, you can probably tell the students to go photocopy the required chapters - you might even be able to get them photocopied and bound into a coursepack for a few dollars, though I'm not sure of the copyright laws around that. But I think students would far rather be told "you need chapters three, five and twenty-eight" and then decide how to go about getting them than having the book generally listed.

Date: 2010-07-26 01:04 pm (UTC)
tea: Barbara Gordon/Oracle, pushing her hair back. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tea
Ahh, maybe it's different in the States. Here (Canada), universities have licences which allow the photocopying of books and journals for every student in a class and "limits copying to either 10 percent of a work for personal use (or 15 percent if the copies are to be sold), or the whole of a chapter which is 20 percent or less of a book, a short story, poem, or journal article from a book or periodical issue containing other works, or a newspaper article, whichever is greater."

Digital coursepacks are the best. Exactly what I need to read, at less than (usually) fifty bucks. Alas, most of my courses now are upper-year physics courses with 120 dollar textbooks.

Date: 2010-07-29 06:12 pm (UTC)
moizissimo: dammit, jim! (Default)
From: [personal profile] moizissimo
My thoughts:
- there need to be reserve copies in the library. Ensure they're not all missing, because as a student, it really sucks when you HAVE to purchase a book because there are no reserves and all the general books are gone.

- everything under $100, please. This is speaking as someone whose classes usually require $160 texts, plus a lab manual, a lab coat, safety glasses, etc, all new for each lab class. I'd rather eat.

- This term is the first time I've found a book cheap (older edition, though), and it was $12 incl shipping. I'm still crowing about this, and the class is almost over! For next term, I found the texts a little cheaper online, but the two books still total about $120. I don't get how people find such good deals. I shop by ISBN...

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